- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 9, 2008

Nebraska court bars electric chair

LINCOLN, Neb. — The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled yesterday that electrocution is cruel and unusual punishment, outlawing the electric chair in the only state that still used it as its sole means of execution.

In the landmark ruling, the court said the Legislature may vote to have a death penalty, just not one that offends rights under the state constitution.

In its 6-1 ruling, the high court said the evidence showed that electrocution inflicts “intense pain and agonizing suffering.”

Nebraska Solicitor General J. Kirk Brown had argued for the state that the legal standard a method of execution must meet is to minimize the risk of unnecessary pain, violence and mutilation, not eliminate it.

Woman enters class, kills 2, herself

BATON ROUGE, La. — A 23-year-old woman killed two fellow students with a .357 revolver in a classroom at a vocational college yesterday, then committed suicide, police said.

The women apparently were shot at their desks in the second-floor classroom at Louisiana Technical College, Baton Rouge Sgt. Don Kelly said. About 20 persons were in the emergency medical technology class at the time, he said.

Police identified the victims as Karsheika Graves, 21, and Taneshia Butler, 26. “Why those two women were targeted … is still an unanswered question,” Sgt. Kelly said. The shooter was identified as Latina Williams.

McCain gets nod from Cantor

Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain yesterday picked up the endorsement of one of Virginia’s top Republicans, only four days before the state’s Republican Party primary.

Chief Minority House Whip Eric Cantor said he is supporting the Arizona lawmaker because he has been a “fiscal hawk” who has been a strong advocate of reforming how Congress spends money and is best qualified to “recognize and respond to the threat posed by radical Islam and the terrorists.”

“I think that is a message that resonates not only with conservative Republicans but with the entire general electorate,” Mr. Cantor told The Washington Times.

The congressman said Mr. McCain is the best qualified among all White House hopefuls to immediately assume the role of president and lead the country. The Virginia lawmaker said he was untroubled by accusations among many Republicans that Mr. McCain is not conservative enough to lead the party and the nation.

“There’s no question there is a rocky road between John McCain and some of the conservatives, which I consider myself one,” he said. “But there is a willingness on his part to reach out and to try to address all of the differences.”

4 dead, 4 missing in dust-caused blast

PORT WENTWORTH, Ga. — Volatile dust was blamed yesterday in an explosion that leveled a sugar refinery, and crews pulled four bodies from tunnels beneath the mangled mass of metal and beams left by the blast.

At least four others known to be inside the plant during the explosion were still missing. Search efforts were slowed by the instability of what was left of the refinery, gutted by flames and wracked by the impact of the blast.

Company President and CEO John Sheptor said sugar dust in a silo where refined sugar was stored before being packaged likely ignited like gunpowder. Sugar dust can become combustible if it’s too dry and builds up a static electric charge. The result was as devastating as a bomb.

From staff reports and wire dispatches.

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