- The Washington Times - Friday, September 15, 2000

Republicans push debt-reduction plan

Republicans yesterday took the first step to put into law their proposal to set aside 90 percent of the federal budget surplus projected for 2001 for federal debt reduction.

Republicans said the plan is necessary to assure that the surplus is not frittered away with an end of the fiscal year spending spree. Democrats called it an insubstantial, partisan effort.

Nonetheless, Democrats joined Republicans yesterday in passing the measure 33-0 from the House Ways and Means Committee. It will come to the House floor for a vote next week when it is expected to garner an equally lopsided vote.

Condemned inmate requests life term

DALLAS A Hispanic inmate who could become the first person executed by the federal government since 1963 has urged President Clinton to commute his sentence to life in prison because of the "long-standing racial bias" involving capital punishment sentencing.

Lawyers for Juan Raul Garza, sentenced to death in 1993 for three drug-related murders, asked the Justice Department for clemency in light of the department's admission this week that 80 percent of defendants charged with federal crimes punishable by death during the past five years were minorities.

Last month, Mr. Clinton delayed Garza's scheduled Aug. 5 execution, setting a Dec. 12 date and giving the 43-year-old inmate the opportunity to apply for clemency.

Policemen suspended after televised arrest

MIAMI Three Miami police officers have been relieved of duty after television news crews filmed them slugging and kicking a robbery suspect at the end of a high-speed chase.

The Miami-Dade County police department said it was investigating whether the officers used excessive force while arresting Jerome McCellion, 19, on Wednesday.

The chase began when police tried to stop a stolen black Cadillac sport utility vehicle matching the description of one used in an armed robbery. The SUV tried to ram a patrol car, then sped north on Interstate 95, with the driver waving a gun at one point, police said.

Colorado holds hearing on gun measure

DENVER A lawyer representing gun-rights advocates told a judge yesterday signatures in favor of a Colorado ballot initiative to require background checks on all gun-show sales were gathered improperly and the initiative should be pulled from the election ballot.

Gun-rights advocates have challenged the voter initiative, sparked by last year's shooting rampage at Columbine High School, at every step on its way to the Nov. 7 election.

President Clinton came to Denver earlier this year to speak on behalf of the measure.

Fire in utility vault disrupts Chicago

CHICAGO A fire in an underground utility vault shut off power to three downtown Chicago office buildings yesterday and disrupted midafternoon traffic.

The blaze appeared to have been caused by a contractor breaking up concrete on a sidewalk above the vault, which contained four transformers. No injuries were reported.

Conviction thrown out in toddler's slaying

SALEM, Ore. Oregon's Supreme Court yesterday threw out a death row inmate's conviction in the rape and murder of a toddler because prosecutors took five years to bring him to trial.

In a 5-1 decision, the court ordered the charges dismissed with prejudice, meaning they cannot be refiled.

The delay violated the Oregon Constitution's guarantee of a speedy trial and made it difficult for Scott Dean Harberts to defend himself, the court said.

"I can't believe this," said Debra Holfeld, mother of 2-year-old Kristina Lynn Hornych, who died in 1989. "A little baby killer gets out scot free. Something has to be done before he does it to somebody else."

Mr. Harberts was convicted in 1994 and sentenced to death.

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