- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 19, 2009

CALIFORNIA

Arsonist gets death sentence

RIVERSIDE | A jury recommended the death penalty Wednesday for a man convicted of murdering five federal firefighters who were overrun by one of several wildfires he ignited in Southern California in 2006.

Jurors took less than a day to decide that Raymond Lee Oyler deserved to die. Prosecutors cited the horrific pain the fire crew suffered and the terror the auto mechanic’s fires caused in rural areas of Riverside County.

Outside court, Maria Loutzenhiser, wife of slain fire Capt. Mark Loutzenhiser, thanked jurors and prosecutors “for putting an end to everybody’s misery and giving everybody peace of mind.”

Oyler, 38, was convicted of five counts of first-degree murder, 20 counts of arson and 17 counts of using an incendiary device. At sentencing, set for June 5, the judge still could give him the punishment the defense had urged jurors to choose: life in prison without the possibility of parole.

“There were more tears today than any other day,” said the foreman, who declined to give his name. “It’s not an easy decision to make.”

GEORGIA

Births, illegitimacy both set records

ATLANTA | Forget the baby boom. More babies were born in the United States in 2007 than any other year in the nation’s history - and wedding rings made increasingly little difference in the matter.

The 4,317,119 births, reported by federal researchers Wednesday, topped a record first set in 1957 at the height of the baby boom.

Behind the number is both good and bad news. While it shows that the U.S. population is more than replacing itself, the teen birthrate was up for a second year in a row.

The birthrate rose slightly for women of all ages, and births to unwed mothers reached an all-time high of about 40 percent, continuing a trend that started years ago. More than three-quarters of these women were 20 or older.

INDIANA

Limits being lifted on American Taliban

INDIANAPOLIS | Federal prison officials are easing restrictions on American-born Taliban soldier John Walker Lindh, moves that his attorney said Wednesday will allow Lindh to tell his story for the first time.

U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Dean Boyd said the restrictions on Lindh, a 28-year-old Muslim convert, will expire Friday.

Jim Brosnahan, a San Francisco lawyer who represents Lindh, said Wednesday that he is pleased that the restrictions are being lifted. Among other things, he said, the changes will allow Lindh to contact and meet with people other than his attorneys and relatives.

Lindh is serving a 20-year sentence for aiding Afghanistan’s Taliban government. He was captured in Afghanistan in November 2001 by U.S. forces sent to topple the Taliban after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He was charged with conspiring to kill Americans and supporting terrorists but pleaded guilty in 2002 to lesser offenses, including carrying explosives for the Taliban. He is incarcerated at a medium-security federal prison in Terre Haute.

MINNESOTA

SLA radical leaves California

ST. PAUL | Former 1970s radical Sara Jane Olson returned to her adopted home state of Minnesota on Wednesday amid controversy over whether she should have been allowed to serve out her parole outside of California.

Olson and her husband arrived at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport early Wednesday evening and eluded reporters and photographers awaiting her arrival. A KMSP-TV crew did question Olson, but she declined to comment before driving away, the station reported.

Olson, 62, served half of a 14-year sentence for pleading guilty in the deadly 1975 robbery of a Sacramento-area bank and in placing pipe bombs under Los Angeles police cars.

The St. Paul police union and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty oppose Olson being allowed to serve her one-year parole in Minnesota, arguing that she should serve it in the state where her crimes were committed. On Wednesday, Los Angeles’ police union voiced its disapproval of the arrangement in a letter to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

NEW MEXICO

Richardson ends state death penalty

SANTA FE | Gov. Bill Richardson signed legislation Wednesday repealing New Mexico’s death penalty, making it the second state to ban executions since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

Mr. Richardson, a Democrat who formerly supported capital punishment, said signing the bill was the “most difficult decision” of his political life.

“Faced with the reality that our system for imposing the death penalty can never be perfect, my conscience compels me to replace the death penalty with a solution that keeps society safe,” Mr. Richardson told a news conference in the state Capitol.

The repeal takes effect July 1 and will apply to crimes committed after that date. New Mexico has executed one person since 1960: child killer Terry Clark in 2001.

Once in effect, the most severe punishment will be a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. The sentences of two men currently on death row will not be affected by the new law. Now, there are 35 states with the death penalty.

NEW YORK

Actor rescues man on tracks

NEW YORK | An actor on his way to a reading jumped onto subway tracks to rescue a man who tumbled off a platform as a train approached.

”I just thought the guy fell down there and I needed to get him out of there,” said Chad Lindsey, 33.

The rescue happened Monday at busy Pennsylvania Station, where Mr. Lindsey was waiting for a train as he headed to a theater downtown. He said he saw a man who appeared drunk come close to the platform, rock back and forth, then pitch headlong onto the tracks.

The man struck his head on the rail and began bleeding profusely, Mr. Lindsey said. He said he jumped down to the tracks and tried to rouse the man. When he didn’t respond, Mr. Lindsey lifted him under the arms and hoisted him onto the platform, with the help of others standing on the platform.

The rescue lasted about 30 seconds, bringing Mr. Lindsey some instant - and overwhelming - publicity. “I’m an actor. I’ve spent most of my life trying to get attention and then I do something that’s a no-brainer, and now I have more than I need,” he said Wednesday.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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