Nation digest 04/23/02

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Actor Blake charged with wife's murder

LOS ANGELES -- Actor Robert Blake was charged Monday with shooting his wife to death after a dinner outing last year in a case that could bring the death penalty.

Under California law, a special circumstance gives prosecutors the option of seeking a death sentence -- a decision they said has not been made in Blake's case.

Blake pleaded innocent.

Bonny Lee Bakley, 44, was shot to death last May as she sat in Blake's car outside a Los Angeles restaurant.

Blake won an Emmy for his portrayal of a detective in the 1970s TV show "Baretta."

LA police chief resigns, says he won't sue

LOS ANGELES -- Police Chief Bernard Parks resigned Monday but said he would not sue over the Police Commission's refusal to reappoint him to a second five-year term.

Parks said his last day would be sometime next week. His term runs until August.

Parks, 58, had left open the possibility of legal action earlier this month after hiring attorneys and accusing the commission's president of smearing his name.

Early start date set for sergeant's spying trial

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- A U.S. judge set an unexpectedly quick trial date Monday in the death-penalty case of a retired Air Force master sergeant accused of plotting to spy for Iraq, China and Libya.

U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee's decision to delay the trial for Brian Patrick Regan, 39, for just two more weeks until June 3 surprised even federal prosecutors, who were hoping for a trial as early as November.

The FBI arrested Regan on Aug. 23 as he was boarding a flight to Zurich, Switzerland. Authorities said he carried codes referring to satellite images of a missile launcher in the northern No-Fly Zone over Iraq and another launcher in China.

California court allows local bans of gun shows

SAN FRANCISCO -- Counties and cities in California may prohibit gun shows on their fairgrounds and other public properties, despite state laws that allow such events, the state Supreme Court ruled Monday. The decision was expected to set off an avalanche of new such ordinances across the state.

Monday's 6-1 ruling upheld bans passed in 1999 in Los Angeles and Alameda counties amid concerns that gun shows promoted violence and tarred the area's public image.

Jury deliberating case in 2000 office shooting

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- A jury began deliberations Monday in the case of a man who claims he believed he was killing Nazis when he shot seven of his co-workers to death at a suburban software company.

Defense attorney Kevin Reddington said Michael McDermott's testimony that he traveled through a time portal to kill Adolf Hitler and his generals corroborated assessments that he was insane.

But prosecutor Tom O'Reilly said there was no doubt McDermott, 43, methodically planned the Dec. 26, 2000, shootings at Edgewater Technology in Wakefield after he became enraged over the company's decision to withhold part of his salary to pay back taxes.

If found guilty of first-degree murder, McDermott faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Child deaths from traffic accidents at all-time low

WASHINGTON -- The number of children killed in auto crashes last year was the lowest since the government started tracking traffic deaths 36 years ago, according to figures released Monday.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 2,658 children under 16 died in 2001, down 5.4 percent from the previous record low set the previous year.

Many states in recent years have passed tougher laws requiring that children be belted or ride in safety seats. And several major automakers have developed programs to educate parents about proper use of restraints.

NHTSA said the overall number of traffic fatalities dropped slightly, from 41,821 in 2000 to 41,730 in 2001.

-- From wire reports

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