Supreme Court halts Texas execution

Posted Sept. 15, 2011, at 9:50 p.m.

HUNTSVILLE, Texas — The U.S. Supreme Court has halted the execution of a black man convicted of a double murder in Texas 16 years ago after his lawyers contended his sentence was unfair because of a question asked about race during his trial.

Forty-eight-year-old John Buck was scheduled for lethal injection Thursday evening.

At issue was a psychologist’s testimony that black people were more likely to commit violence.

A similar request to block the punishment was made to Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Perry is the Republican frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination and his actions have now come under closer scrutiny.

Wash. teachers maintain strike despite judge order

TACOMA, Wash. — Teachers in Washington state’s third-largest school district voted overwhelmingly Thursday to remain on strike in defiance of a judge’s order that they return to work.

Some 93 percent of the nearly 1,600 teachers gathered at the Tacoma Dome arena said they wanted to keep picketing.

The Tacoma School District teachers walked out Tuesday over issues including pay, class size and how job transfers are handled. A state judge issued an order Wednesday that they go back to class, but the teachers refused.

Many students have joined the picket lines and hundreds rallied in front of the Tacoma Dome before and during Thursday’s vote.

Rebecca Jimenez, a senior at Foss High School, said she was hoping the teachers would continue their strike.

“I think it’s a good example to show. If you’re going to do something, stick with it. Don’t give up,” she said.

Tacoma Education Association President Andy Coons said Thursday’s vote was a sign that teachers agree.

“Each time we have this vote, it gets stronger,” Coons said.

The contract issues being debated in Tacoma are echoed across the nation as school districts grapple with federally mandated school reform. The U.S. Department of Education wants every state and school district to update the way they evaluate teachers, and a weak economy has most states struggling to find enough money to pay teachers.

Man, 19, charged in Calif. toddler shooting

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — A man was charged with murder and attempted murder Thursday after police say he fired a volley of bullets onto a front porch where young children were playing, killing a 3-year-old and critically injuring a pregnant woman and her 3-year-old daughter.

Brandon Taray Barnes, 19, of San Bernardino was arrested late Wednesday after police connected him to the shooting through witness interviews, said San Bernardino police Lt. Gwendolyn Waters.

He was charged with one count of murder and seven counts of attempted murder in the Monday shooting, one for each of the individuals who were relaxing on the porch when the shooting occurred, District Attorney Michael Ramos said at a news conference.

Ramos called the shooting “horrendous” and a “cowardly act,” and vowed justice in the case. “We will not allow this to happen to our citizens, especially our babies,” he said.

Police believe Barnes was retaliating against a male resident of the home who had intervened earlier in the day when he saw the suspect assaulting a woman outside a nearby market.

Barnes likely saw the Good Samaritan return to the home where the shooting occurred and fired at least a dozen bullets into the residence, Waters said.

“It shows not only a lack of conscience, but it shows cowardice and lack of respect for human life,” said police Chief Keith Kilmer.

Barnes was arrested just after 5 p.m. Wednesday while riding his bicycle two blocks from the crime scene. He is affiliated with a Los Angeles-area gang, authorities said, but they declined to say which one. Police have not recovered the weapon.

Panetta: DOD cuts could up jobless rate by 1 point

ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT — Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned Congress on Thursday that if lawmakers fail to agree on debt-ceiling talks and trigger $1 trillion in Pentagon budget cuts, they could add 1 percentage point to the nation’s jobless rate.

Pentagon press secretary George Little said Thursday that Panetta has relayed those numbers to lawmakers in person and in calls this week, urging Congress to avoid the deadlock that would require the sweeping cuts.

Under the current deficit-reduction plan, the Pentagon must slash more than $400 billion in defense spending over the next decade. In addition, a newly created deficit-cutting supercommittee has until Nov. 23 to reach a consensus on budget cuts. If the committee members can’t agree, or if Congress rejects its plan, automatic cuts of $1.2 trillion would hit the government accounts, with half coming from defense spending.

The trillion dollar total, Little said, would be devastating for the military, forcing spending reductions that likely would necessitate shrinking the size of the Army, Air Force and Marine Corps to the smallest numbers in decades and also lead to the smallest Navy in nearly 100 years.

“We would break faith with those in uniform who are serving. At a time of war, that’s unacceptable,” Little told reporters traveling with Panetta back to Washington after security meetings with Australian leaders in San Francisco.

 

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