San Quentin: Cash-Strapped California to Spend $356M to Upgrade Death Row

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SAN QUENTIN, Calif.) -- San Quentin State Prison's death row will soon be getting a controversial upgrade.

California State officials justified the $356 million project to renovate the state's notorious death row by pointing out the security and safety flaws on three housing blocks constructed in the 1920s, 1930s and 1960s, which house such high-profile murderers as Drew Peterson, Richard Ramirez and Cary Stayner.

However, local and state officials questioned Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's commitment to pay a $64.7 million down payment out of the cash-strapped state's general fund, at a time when funding is being reduced or withheld from schools and state workers have been forced through a summer of furlough days.

"It is the poster child for this administration's failure to prioritize in tough times," state Assemblyman Jared Huffman, R-San Rafael, said. He added "It's the most expensive prison cell space on the planet."

Huffman is one of two state legislators to file a legal challenge to Schwarzenegger's use of veto power to excise from the budget language that would have called for studies and resolutions of the state's well-known prison overcrowding problem.

A decision is expected in November, but bids are scheduled to be opened on the project on Tuesday.

H.D. Palmer, the state's deputy finance director, said that the death row is in dire need of immediate attention and that because the state's penal code dictates executions be done at San Quentin, they cannot even consider moving death row elsewhere.

"Given the safety issues and the structural issues that are involved here, and given the fact that capital punishment is still the law of the land here … this facility needs to go forward," Palmer said.
On the East Block, there is only one line of perimeter security between the cells and the San Francisco Bay. It is a 12-foot masonry wall topped with razor wire. The state, which has questioned the current structure's ability to contain prisoners during an earthquake, plans to construct a double wall with an electrified fence in between. 

However many in the area aren't buying this project as a state necessity. The Larkspur City Council, whose town sits adjacent to San Quentin, voted -- at Huffman's request -- to send a letter to Schwarzenegger opposing the expansion.

The project is to be completed in two phases and is scheduled for completion in 2013.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Jury in Petit Murder Trial Hears Closing Arguments

Photo Courtesy -- Connecticut Judicial Branch(NEW HAVEN, Conn.) -- In attempting to convince a jury that accused murderer Steven Hayes is guilty of slaughtering a woman and her two daughters during a brutal Connecticut home invasion, the prosecutor recounted how the family's home had been turned into a "house of terror and horror."

Both the prosecution and the defense completed their closing arguments Friday in the state's case against Hayes, 47, one of two men accused of killing Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11.  Only the family patriarch, Dr. William Petit survived. Brutally beaten and left bound in the basement, he managed to make his way out to a neighbor's home to ask for help.

Though the defense had attempted to separate Hayes from his co-defendant, 30-year-old Joshua Komisarjevsky, State's Attorney Michael Dearington told jurors that they could "count the opportunities that he had to walk away from this."

During the closing arguments this morning, the prosecution recounted the timeline of events that night, including acts of sexual assault committed against Hawke-Petit and her daughter Michaela.

The case is expected to be handed to the jury on Monday.

Komisarjevsky will face trial after Hayes. Both he and Hayes are facing the death penalty.

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New Feature on Healthcare.Gov Allows Comparison of Insurance Plans

Photo Courtesy - Healthcare dot gov | Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Obama administration on Friday launched a new feature on which allows people to search for insurance plans in their area.

In the new "Find Insurance Options" section on the site, people can fill out a form with basic medical and demographic information. They will be prompted about the different options they have and a selection of health insurance plans that are available, including price and restrictions.

People will be able to compare information such as monthly premium estimates, annual deductibles, out-of-pocket limits and services covered.

Today's launch is part of the administration's push to create more awareness about the new health care law and make information more readily available to consumers, a majority of whom still don't know what the changes mean for them. It also comes among growing opposition from Republican lawmakers, who argue that the law should be repealed.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Elko, Nevada: The City the Recession Forgot

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(ELKO, Nev.) -- What the Himalayas were to Shangri-La -- a shield from harm -- so gold has been to Elko, Nev. This city has thrived the past two years.

"They call it the town the recession forgot," says local Mary Haigwood.

Elko, about 300 miles east of Reno, sits astride the biggest gold deposit ever found in North America: the Carlin Trend. It is five miles wide and 40 miles long. Over 50 million troy ounces of gold have been produced here, more than came from California's fabled Gold Rush.

As the metal's price has risen, mining giants, including Newmont and Barrick, have kept hiring, even as employers elsewhere in the U.S. were laying off. Unemployment, says Barrick spokesman Louis Schack, is low.

"We employ about 3,600 people in Nevada, and the majority reside in Elko. We've added several hundred new jobs in recent years," Schack said.

Since the 1970s, the industry has pumped some $6 billion into Nevada infrastructure, most of it going to mines in or around Elko. The area's population has risen from 7,000 to close to 50,000.

In Reno and Las Vegas, the housing bubble may have burst. Not here. Foreclosures, says Barrick's Schack, are few. There's even been some growth in housing. A nice home goes for $100,000.

It's not as if Elko hasn't seen tough times. When gold's price tumbled in the late 1990s, the town suffered and the mines laid people off. Stores downtown were boarded up. Today, though, gold's warm glow bathes every business. At Mona's Ranch, a legal brothel on Third Street, there's a sign that says, "Now Hiring."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Chicago Grandmother Shoots Troublesome 12-Year-Old

Photo Courtesy - WLS/ABC News(CHICAGO) -- Is the gun-wielding widow who wounded a menacing 12-year-old boy a hero or a dangerous granny with a gun who over-reacted? That's the debate stirred by the actions of an elderly woman on Chicago's South Side.

On Tuesday, Margaret Matthews, 68, decided she'd had enough of two young boys, ages 12 and 13, who she said had been harassing her in her home for more than a year. When she returned to her home from grocery shopping that day, she noticed broken windows and the two boys running away.

When they returned, the widowed grandmother stood on her porch and confronted them. Allegedly, they replied by hurling bricks and rocks at her. She said one hit her in the chest.

She called police, but worried they might come too late, so she said she went back outside and fired at the boys, wounding the 12-year-old in the shoulder.

"I was either going to be a victim or a villain," Matthews told ABC News. "I did what I had to do to protect myself."

Police agreed and decided not to charge Matthews. The boys face charges of aggravated assault. 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Rutgers Suicide: Roommate Had Issues with Gay Student from the Start?

Photo Courtesy - Stephen Michael Garey Photography(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- A series of tweets and Internet postings in the weeks before the suicide of a Rutgers University student appear to show that the freshman's sexual orientation had been an issue from the start.

Authorities in New Jersey are investigating the events that led to the death of Tyler Clementi and are considering whether they can pursue more charges against his roommate, Dharun Ravi, and another student, Molly Wei, both of whom allegedly filmed Clementi engaged in a sexual encounter with another male and broadcast it on the Internet.

Ravi tweeted on Aug. 22, "Found out my roommate is gay," according to, and then posted a link to a gay men's website where Ravi said Clementi had placed posts. Gawker reported it was that same website,, that Clementi was believed to have turned to once he found out that Ravi had secretly filmed Clementi's encounter.

"So my question is what is next," the poster cti2mo, believed to be Clementi, wrote on Sept. 21. "I could just be more careful next time ... make sure to turn the cam away." And then, in the same post, "I'm kind pissed at him (rightfully so I think, no?)"

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called Clementi's suicide an unspeakable tragedy and said that he couldn't imagine how the two students accused of secretly filming Clementi could sleep at night "knowing that they contributed to driving that young man to that alternative."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Rain From Remnants of Nicole Batter US East Coast

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The remnants of Tropical Storm Nicole are moving through the East Coast of the U.S., leaving residents along the eastern seaboard bracing for more rain.  The storm has already dropped at least seven inches of rain in both Virginia and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

In New York City, heavy rain is falling, puddling on roads and sidewalks, while tropical storm winds gust up to 50 miles per hour sweep through the streets.  Flooding, along with speed restrictions posted on area bridges, are causing traffic jams and delays in the region.

In Newark, New Jersey, residents, like Brandon Cruz, have been stranded due to high flood waters rising.  As he was leaving work, Cruz tells ABC News Radio, "Right when I came over I saw people stranded, stuck out there.  I tried to make it through and thought better and turned around."

ABC's Stacy Sager was in Newark, describing the city's flooding.  She says, "Trucks going by are creating a wave that's going above my knee.  I am in the water here, underwater here in Newark.  We see four cars underwater.  The fire department was here.  They got one person out of their car."

Flood warnings and advisories remain in effect in the Northeast and New England Areas.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Missing Hiker Found Alive; Expected To Recover

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(PALM SPRINGS, Calif.) -- Edward Rosenthal, a 64-year-old missing Los Angeles real estate broker, was found alive Thursday, six days after leaving for a daylong hike in Joshua Tree National Park.

He was taken to High Desert Medical Center and is expected to recover from heat exhaustion and other minor injuries. 

Authorities don't know how he got so far off course or how he survived the week.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Two New Orleans Police Officers Charged With Perjury In Federal Civil Suit

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Department of Justice said Thursday that "two officers with the New Orleans Police Department have been charged with committing perjury and obstructing justice during the course of a federal civil suit related to the shooting death of civilian Danny Brumfield in September 2005." 

A statement from the Department of Justice added, "The six-count indictment alleges that Officers Ronald Mitchell and Ray Jones gave false deposition testimony during the course of a federal civil lawsuit filed by Danny Brumfield’s wife against the city of New Orleans."

According to the indictment, Mitchell falsified his sworn testimony in November 2007, when he alleged that Brumfield lunged at him with a shiny object before he shot Brumfield in self-defense.  Mitchell also testified that he checked Brumfield's vital signs directly after the incident. However, the indictment claims Brumfield did not lunge at Mitchell with a shiny object, nor did Mitchell check on him.

In June 2007, Jones testified that he "covered the crowd" while Mitchell checked on Brumfield. The indictment alleges that Jones did not cover the crowd.

Officers Mitchell and Jones face a maximum penalty of up to 20 years in prison if convicted.  However, the release states that the "indictment is merely an accusation, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


President Carter Released from Hospital

Photo Courtesy - The Carter Center/Knudsen Photos(CLEVELAND) -- President Jimmy Carter was discharged from a Cleveland hospital Thursday after recovering from a gastric viral infection.

"He will resume his schedule with a meeting this week in Washington, D.C.," according to a statement released by the Carter Center.

The former president spent two days at the MetroHealth Medical Center after experiencing stomach pain aboard a Cleveland-bound flight.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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