Alabama’s newly approved education plan, which will replace No Child Left Behind in the state, is under fire for setting different goals for students in math and reading tests based in part on the students' race and economic status, in an attempt to close achievement gaps.
Alabama’s Plan 2020, approved in June by the US Department of Education, follows the Bush-era precedent to divide students by subgroups on the basis of race or ethnicity to assess achievement, but goes further in setting different goals for the groups, the Tuscaloosa News first reported Sunday.
For instance, while 95 percent of third-graders, regardless of subgroup, need to pass math in 2013 under No Child Left Behind, the Alabama plan expects 91.5 percent of white students and 79 percent of black students to pass math tests in 2013.
“Isn't this discrimination? Doesn't this imply that some students are not as smart as others depending on their genetic and economic backgrounds?" asked Elois Zeanah, president of the Alabama Federation of Republican Women, in a written statement.
The state has the highest math goals for Asian/Pacific Islander students, expecting 93.6 percent will pass the test this year, and lower goals for Hispanic students and students in poverty.
The goals aren’t supposed to stay stagnant. Instead, Plan 2020 requires that students in lower-performing subgroups improve the most until rates reach relative parity in 2018.
“We're not just grabbing the numbers out of the air,” Shanthia Washington, education administrator for the Alabama Department of Education, told the Tuscaloosa News. “This is real-life, true data. These are your goals every year. The goal is to reduce the students who aren't proficient over the period of the next six years.”
Some critics are concerned the state’s approach to closing the achievement gap will help to entrench gaps instead.
“You know what this will do. Teachers will stop teaching those kids with the lower cut scores. They will, out of necessity, teach to the top cut scores,” said Sharon Sewell, director of Alabamians United for Excellence in Education, in a statement.
The US Department of Education granted Alabama a waiver from No Child Left behind on June 21 and approved Plan 2020 as its replacement.
“The waiver [from No Child Left Behind] is just one part of the overall Plan 2020 approach,” said Tommy Bice, Alabama superintendent of education, at the time. “Ultimately, what will result is a system that uses the college and career readiness of its graduates as its capstone measure of success.”
Melinda Maddox, assistant superintendent for research, information, and data services for the Alabama Department of Education, "said assessments under Plan 2020 will better identify weaknesses in education progress than No Child Left Behind's Adequate Yearly Progress measure,” wrote the Birmingham News in June.
"We are focused on closing achievement gaps, increasing graduation rates, moving students to proficiency and making sure our graduates are prepared for college and/or a career without remediation," Ms. Maddox said, according the Birmingham newspaper.
Tuscaloosa board of education member Marvin Lucas told the Tuscaloosa News he believes Plan 2020's accountability standards are unfair.
“If I give a lower expectation for any child, that's not pushing that kid to his highest potential,” Mr. Lucas said. “All kids, no matter what their race is, can achieve if you push them and give them real ways to make it."
The US Department of Education has now approved requests for waivers from No Child Left Behind requirements from 36 states and the District of Columbia.
States have been able to apply for waivers since September 2011, when the Obama administration announced it would consider waivers because Congress had not reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
On Tuesday, a medical examiner called by prosecutors testified that Mr. Zimmerman's injuries not only were not life-threatening, but also were "very insignificant." Her assessment addresses a key aspect of the trial, in which Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain of his gated community in Sanford, Fla., faces second-degree murder charges in the shooting death of the unarmed teen on Feb. 26, 2012.
Dr. Valerie Rao, the medical examiner for Duval, Clay, and Nassau Counties in northern Florida, said Zimmerman’s injuries could have been the result of a single blow during a confrontation between the two. [Editor's note: The original version of this paragraph misspelled Dr. Rao's first name.]
She also took issue with Zimmerman's own characterization of events, which the defendant had relayed to Fox News' Sean Hannity in an interview that aired July 18. In it, he said that Trayvon Martin "started slamming my head into the concrete." Prosecutors played the interview for jurors on Tuesday.
But the injuries Zimmerman sustained didn't mesh with that recounting, Dr. Rao testified. “If you look at the injuries, they’re so minor,” she said during questioning by prosecutors. “The word 'slam' conveys great force, and there was no great force used here.”
Rao did not perform the autopsy for Trayvon and did not examine George Zimmerman in person. Rather, the prosecution hired her as an expert witness, and she formed her judgments from photographs of Zimmerman taken that night.
Defense attorney Mark O’Mara, in a bid to cast doubt on Rao’s neutrality, suggested that she may be indebted to State Attorney Angela Corey, the special prosecutor in the Zimmerman case. Ms. Corey appointed Rao to the interim position she held before the governor named her to her current position.
Rao replied that Corey “sent my name up to governor,” but testified under further questioning by prosecutors that she did not slant her testimony because Corey wrote a letter of support for her.
The medical judgment is important to prosecutors, who are trying to prove that "George Zimmerman did not shoot Trayvon Martin because he had to [but] he shot him for the worst of all reasons – because he wanted to,” as prosecutor John Guy said in the state's opening statement.
The extent of Zimmerman’s injuries also raised questions with Sanford police investigator Chris Serino, who completed five hours of testimony Tuesday morning.
Detective Serino told the court he questioned whether Zimmerman’s injuries matched Zimmerman's statements that Trayvon was slamming his head on the concrete, but that overall he found Zimmerman’s account “consistent.”
Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda, who called Serino to the stand, asked the judge Monday to strike from the record a statement Serino made in which he said he found credible Zimmerman's account of how he came to be in a fight with Trayvon Martin.
Mr. De la Rionda argued that the statement was improper because one witness isn't allowed to give an opinion on the credibility of another witness. Defense attorney Mark O'Mara argued it was proper because it was Serino's job to decide whether Zimmerman was telling the truth.
Judge Debra Nelson told jurors to disregard the statement. "This is an improper comment," the judge said.
The prosecutor then questioned Serino about his opinion that Zimmerman did not show ill will or spite toward Trayvon. A second-degree murder conviction requires prosecutors to prove that the defendant acted out of ill will, spite, or a depraved mind.
The prosecutor played back Zimmerman's nonemergency call to police to report the teen walking through his community. Zimmerman uses an expletive, refers to "punks" and then says, "These a-------. They always get away."
The detective conceded that Zimmerman's choice of words could be interpreted as being spiteful.
Zimmerman has said he fatally shot Trayvon in February 2012 in self-defense in the midst of a fight in which the teenager was banging his head into a concrete sidewalk. The volunteer watchman has pleaded not guilty to the second-degree murder charges. If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison.
The state argued in its opening statement that Zimmerman had profiled Trayvon, who is African-American, and followed the teenager in a truck, phoning a police dispatch number before he and the teen got into a fight behind townhomes where he was patrolling.
Zimmerman has denied that the confrontation had anything to do with race, as Trayvon's family and their supporters have claimed.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.
The first police officer to interview George Zimmerman the night he shot Trayvon Martin testified Monday that Mr. Zimmerman appeared “shocked” when she told him Trayvon was dead.
“He’s dead?” Detective Doris Singleton, the Sanford police investigator, recalled Mr. Zimmerman saying in an interview at the Sanford police station the night of Feb. 26, 2012.
“I thought you knew that,” Detective Singleton told the court she said in reply. “He kind of slung his head and just shook it,” she testified.
Singleton, a prosecution witness, also said during cross-examination by defense attorney Mark O’Mara that Zimmerman did not show any anger or ill will when talking about Trayvon that night. In order to convict Zimmerman, who is facing second-degree murder chargers, prosecutors must show that he acted with ill will or a depraved mind.
Prosecutors, led by assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda, sought to cast doubt on Zimmerman’s statements to police.
“Mr. Zimmerman, wouldn’t you agree, was trying to convince you that he hadn’t done anything wrong?” Mr. de la Rionda asked Singleton.
Prosecutors also tried to point to discrepancies in Zimmerman’s oral testimony to Singleton and the written statement he made just after the interview.
In particular, de la Rionda focused on Zimmerman’s repeated reference to Trayvon as “the suspect” in his written statement, but not in verbal testimony. Singleton testified that she didn’t ask Zimmerman to use that language and that it is the term officers use to refer to suspected criminals.
That testimony may be important for prosecutors since they are tying to portray Zimmerman as a “vigilante” who wanted to be a police office and profiled the unarmed black teenager the night of Feb. 26, 2012.
Also Monday, prosecutors called to the witness stand an FBI voice analyst who testified that a 911 call that captured shouts for help was too short and too far away to be used for evaluation.
"That type of sample is not fit for voice comparison," the analyst, Hirotaka Nakasone, said.
Mr. Nakasone was one of the audio experts whose testimony at a pretrial hearing discredited state voice experts who said Trayvon was the one screaming. The state experts were prohibited from testifying in the trial because the judge said there was not enough evidence to prove their techniques are tested or reliable.
Nakasone testified Monday that people familiar with the voices of Trayvon and Zimmerman would be the best people to identify the voices, but that there is a risk of increased listener bias. Trayvon’s parents and Zimmerman’s father both say it’s their son screaming in the tape.
The potential witness list for Zimmerman's trial includes about 200 people, including family members of both Zimmerman and Trayvon, according to USA Today. More than 20 witnesses testified last week in the opening week of the much-anticipated trial. Trayvon’s death and the initial decision of the Sanford Police Department not to arrest Zimmerman sparked hundreds of protests across the country and a national debate about race, equal justice, self defense, and gun control. Zimmerman was arrested 44 days after the shooting following the appointment of a special prosecutor.
Zimmerman has said he fatally shot Trayvon in February 2012 in self-defense in the midst of a fight in which the teenager was banging his head into a concrete sidewalk. The volunteer watchman has pleaded not guilty to the second-degree murder charges, for which he could get life in prison if convicted.
The state argued in its opening statement that Zimmerman profiled and followed Trayvon in his truck and called a police dispatch number before he and the teen got into a fight behind townhomes in the gated community he was patrolling.
Zimmerman has denied that the confrontation had anything to do with race, as Martin's family and their supporters have claimed.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.
The members of an elite firefighting crew who died in Arizona Sunday were overtaken by a fast-moving fire that was thought to be sparked by lightning, as triple-digit temperatures have gripped the US West.
Nineteen members of the “Granite Mountain Hotshots” were killed, said Mike Reichling, Arizona State Forestry Division spokesman, on Monday. More firefighters died battling this wildfire than have died fighting any other wildfire in the United States in 80 years.
"We grieve for the family. We grieve for the department. We grieve for the city," Prescott (Ariz.) Fire Chief Dan Fraijo said at a news conference Sunday evening.
The specially trained “Hotshot Crew” was based in Prescott, about 100 miles north of Phoenix. The 20-member crew was one of 110 Hotshot Crews in the United States, according to the US Forest Service website. Hotshot Crews are often deployed soon after a fire breaks out and will sometimes hike for miles into the wilderness with chain saws and backpacks filled with heavy gear to build lines of protection between people and fires. They remove brush, trees, and anything that might burn in the direction of homes and cities. This crew had worked other wildfires in recent weeks in New Mexico and Arizona.
As a last-ditch effort at survival, Hotshot crew members are trained to dig into the ground and cover themselves with a tentlike shelter made of fire-resistant material, Chief Fraijo said. The hope in that desperate situation is that the fire will burn over them and they will survive.
"It's an extreme measure that's taken under the absolute worst conditions," Fraijo said.
Nineteen fire shelters were deployed, and some of the firefighters were found inside them, while others were outside the shelters, Mr. Reichling told The Arizona Republic.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) website lists the last wildland fire to kill more firefighters as the 1933 Griffith Park fire of Los Angeles, which killed 29. The most firefighters – 340 – were killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York, according to the website.
The news comes just a few weeks after the NFPA released a study showing the number of on-duty firefighter deaths has actually dropped by more than a third in the past three decades and had fallen to historic lows the past two years. The drop is largely due to improvements to firefighter equipment, better safety standards, and a decrease in overall fires.
A total of 64 on-duty firefighters died in the US in 2012, marking the second consecutive year that the total has been below 65 deaths, the lowest level since statistics began to be tracked in 1977.
Wildfire deaths are included in the annual NFPA reports, but they don’t typically account for a major portion of the deaths, according to an interview with Ken Willette, a former fire chief in Massachusetts and manager of Public Fire Protection at NFPA, when the recent report was released.
In 2012, four members of the North Carolina Air National Guard died when their aircraft crashed while responding to a wildfire in South Dakota, the report says.
The top cause of death for firefighters is listed as cardiac arrest, which has industry associations promoting major health and fitness campaigns.
Wildfire crews have long had strict fitness standards, higher than most fire departments', Mr. Willette says.
Firefighters in the Prescott crew were required to take an 80-hour critical training course and then an annual refresher and were also offered fire-safety courses, according to the crew's website.
Each firefighter had to pass a test of carrying a work pack, as well as run 1.5 miles in 10 minutes, 35 seconds, and complete 40 sit-ups in 60 seconds, 25 push-ups in 60 seconds, and between four and seven pull-ups (based on weight), Reuters reports.
"It had to be a perfect storm in order for this to happen. Their situational awareness and their training was at such a high level that it's unimaginable that this has even happened," Prescott Fire Department spokesman Wade Ward told NBC's "Today" program.
On Sunday the fire, which spread to at least 2,000 acres, also destroyed 200 homes and sent hundreds fleeing from Yarnell, Ariz., a town of about 700 residents about 85 miles northwest of Phoenix.
Eighteen Hotshot Crews are now battling the blaze, and more are expected, Reichling said Monday.
• Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.
Potential record temperatures are inching up across the American West as a high pressure dome slides across gauzy skylines and trembling desert canyons. But only one place can determine whether a new world heat record will be set this weekend: Death Valley, Calif.
Death Valley is a seared moon landscape that periodically blooms with fields of wildflowers. A thermometer near Furnace Creek recorded a 134 degree day in o July 10, 1913, which remains the hottest recorded air temperature on planet earth.
As heat warnings reverberate on Saturday from Phoenix to Las Vegas and hospitals gear up for a spike in heat exhaustion victims and perhaps worse, weather watchers are watching to see whether this heat wave breaks any records.
The heat wave is "a huge one," National Weather Service specialist Stuart Seto said, according to the AP. "We haven't seen one like this for several years, probably the mid- to late 2000s."
Phoenix was forecast to hit nearly 120 on Saturday. The record in that part of the world, Arizona’s Valley of the Sun, is 122.
Energy-sapping heat is expected to spread across Idaho, Wyoming, and Utah, potentially to dangerous levels. Las Vegas may see 117 degrees this weekend, which would mark only the third time the Nevada gambling capital got so hot. An average of 658 Americans die from heat-related causes every year, far more than are hurt or killed by tornadoes.
"This is the hottest time of the year, but the temperatures that we'll be looking at for Friday through Sunday, they'll be toward the top," weather service meteorologist Mark O'Malley tells the AP. "It's going to be baking hot across much of the entire West."
Forecasters say the temperature in Death Valley, meanwhile, could inch to 130, at least close to one of the earth’s most extreme weather moments. The world in 1913 was far less polluted and industry, cars, and planes emitted a fraction of modern-day carbon emissions, which many earth scientists today blame for climate change.
At any rate, Death Valley has been pretty hot in recent years. On July 12, 2012, nighttime temperatures dropped to only 107 degrees after a 128 degree day, tying a world record for highest daily low temperature set a few days earlier in Oman. That same day, the 24-hour mean temperature in Death Valley clocked in at 117.5 degrees. That 24-hour period was the hottest in recorded world history.
A federally protected subtropical desert and once a supplier of gold, silver and borax, Death Valley has a unique mix of landscape and weather that create what Chris Carlson, an AP photographer, described as “unrelenting heat so bad it makes my eyes hurt, as if someone is blowing a hair dryer in my face.”
As air rises from the near plant-less valley floor, it cools as it gains elevation, eventually dropping back to the valley floor again, denser than before. As superheated localized air masses thus circulate, Death Valley becomes a convection oven.
When it comes to marijuana legalization, the pot-scented winds of change are blustery. It's sometimes hard to read the prevailing winds.
Eighteen states have legalized the use of marijuana for medical use. New Hampshire looks likely to be come No. 19. Last November, voters in Colorado and Washington took legalization a step further by approving the use of cannabis for recreational use.
But the new Colorado law allows every municipality to regulate retail sales of marijuana for recreational use – or opt out. On Thursday, some 60 residents turned out for a Colorado Springs City Council meeting held to give residents an opportunity to share their views. And if this meeting is any indication, the debate on marijuana legalization continues at the local level.
The Gazette in Colorado Springs reported:
"Selling marijuana in retail stores could lead to more traffic crashes and fatalities, said Colorado Springs Police Chief Pete Carey. On the other hand, selling marijuana could boost the economy with jobs and sales tax revenue. For every point there was a counterpoint as residents in a standing-room only hall waited patiently to speak."
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The new state law requires each city to decide on whether to allow marijuana sales – or not – by Oct. 1. Colorado Springs City Council member Jan Martin said they expect to make a decision by July 23.
So far, 34 Colorado cities and counties have banned retail marijuana sales; 25 cities or counties have put a moratorium on sales and will take action at a later date, said Ms. Martin, according to The Gazette.
Rosemary Harris Lytle, president of the NAACP Colorado/Montana/Wyoming State Conference, spoke out in favor of Colorado Springs retail sales. The NAACP endorsed Colorado's Amendment 64, "because of the impact of incarceration on young men and women of color," she said. "We know from our research that possessing a joint has great impact on the lives of young people."
Similarly, on June 25 the NAACP came out in favor of a bill allowing recreational use of marijuana in Pennsylvania.
The NAACP says that the war on drugs in America unfairly targets minorities and that there is a “staggeringly disproportionate” arrest rate compared with white drug users, according to The Patriot News.
“The war on drugs is a catastrophic failure,” said David Scott, chair of the Legal Redress Committee for the Cheltenham Area Branch of the NAACP and a former deputy chief of police. Scott cited an ACLU study that sees a racial bias in the prosecution of marijuana users.
While the Pennsylvania marijuana legalization bill is not expected to pass, it's indicative of how the issue continues to roil.
This past week, the New Hampshire legislature passed a bill that would make it the 19th state to allow for medical marijuana use.
The Associated Press reports that "the bill allows patients diagnosed with cancer, Crohn's disease and other conditions to possess up to 2 ounces of marijuana obtained from one of four dispensaries authorized by the state. To qualify for medical marijuana, a person would have to have been a patient of the prescribing doctor for at least 90 days, have tried other remedies and have exhibited certain symptoms. Only New Hampshire residents would qualify.
The [new New Hampshire] dispensaries could have a maximum of 80 marijuana plants, 160 seedlings and 80 ounces of marijuana or 6 ounces per qualifying patient. They also would have a limit of three mature cannabis plants, 12 seedlings and 6 ounces for each patient who designates the dispensary as a treatment center."
New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan has said she will sign the bill into law.
Meanwhile, in California, where medical marijuana use has been legal since 1996, the state's Supreme Court ruled in May that cities and counties can ban medical marijuana dispensaries. A few weeks later, Los Angeles voters approved a ballot measure that limits the number of pot shops in the city to 135, down from an estimated high of about 1,000. And earlier this month, federal authorities in California began a crackdown on some 100 pot clinics in Los Angeles County.
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“An atmospheric blast furnace will be at full throttle heading into the weekend over the interior West with heat reaching dangerous levels, challenging records and elevating the wildfire threat,” warns Alex Sosnowski, a senior meteorologist with AccuWeather. “In some cities, record highs for any date throughout the year could be equaled or breached.”
Chris Dolce of the Weather Channel agrees: “Temperatures will soar well into the 110s and even 120s in the days ahead. One location could even approach 130 degrees!”
Indeed, the prediction is for temperatures to range as high as 130 degrees in California’s Death Valley – which would be the highest there since 1913. Bullhead City, Ariz.; Blythe, Calif.; and Palm Springs, Calif., are all forecast to approach or reach the low 120s. Phoenix is expected to max out in the middle to upper 110s, and Las Vegas could top out at 117 degrees. When it gets that hot, nighttime temperatures remain in the 90s.
Even parts of the typically cooler Pacific Northwest could be baking over the next several days, according to the Weather Channel: Portland, Ore., and Seattle in the 90s, and Boise, Idaho, in the low 100s and perhaps as high as 108 by Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise is forecasting “above normal potential for significant fire activity in the West Coast states, the Southwest, and portions of Idaho and Montana.”
Causing the heat wave, according to the National Weather Service, is a "massive and unusually strong high-pressure system" over the region, resulting in “dangerously hot temperatures.”
The weather service has issued excessive heat warnings and watches for most of Arizona, Nevada, and California and parts of Utah, in effect through Monday.
"An excessive heat warning is issued when temperatures are forecast to reach dangerous levels that will stress the body if precautions are not taken," the weather service states.
In the face of such heat, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges these cautions:
• Stay indoors as much as possible and limit exposure to sun.
• Stay on the lowest floor, out of the sunshine, if air conditioning is not available.
• Consider spending the warmest part of the day in public buildings such as libraries, schools, movie theaters, shopping malls, and other community facilities.
• Eat regular, light, well-balanced meals and limit any intake of alcoholic beverages.
• Drink plenty of water.
• Dress in loose-fitting, lightweight, and light-colored clothing that covers as much skin as possible.
• Protect the face and head by wearing a wide-brimmed hat.
• Check on family, friends, and neighbors who do not have air conditioning and who spend much of their time alone.
• Do not leave children or pets alone in closed vehicles.
• Avoid strenuous work during the warmest part of the day. Use the buddy system when working in extreme heat and take frequent breaks.
A neighbor of George Zimmerman testified in Mr. Zimmerman’s murder trial Friday that it appeared Trayvon Martin was straddling and striking Zimmerman before the unarmed teenager was shot.
The neighbor, Jonathan Good, said he went outside after hearing a noise outside his town house on Feb. 26, 2012. Mr. Good said he saw what looked like a “tussle” when he stepped onto his back patio.
“What’s going on? Stop it,” Good said he yelled.
Good returned inside to call 911 and was on the phone with police when he heard a gunshot.
However, Good said he did not see anyone's head being slammed into the concrete sidewalk, which Zimmerman's lawyers say Trayvon did to him. Good initially testified that it appeared "there were strikes being thrown, punches being thrown," but during detailed questioning, he said he saw only "downward" arm movements being made.
Good, who lived in the same gated community in Sanford, Fla., as Zimmerman, was the fourth neighbor who partially witnessed the death of Trayvon to testify in the trial, Reuters notes.
“Each has given slightly different accounts,” Reuters notes.
Good's testimony complicates the picture for jurors after two other neighbors testified Thursday that they believed Zimmerman was on top. But unlike Good, those neighbors did not see the fight before the gunshot was fired.
Neighbor Selma Mora testified Thursday "that after she heard what she now believes was a gunshot, she rushed outside and saw the man who survived the fight on his knees straddling Trayvon," according to The Orlando Sentinel. "That man then stood up and began pacing, she said.”
Jennifer Lauer, a former neighbor of Zimmerman, testified that she heard yelps for help outside her town home on the night Trayvon was shot, but couldn't tell who was screaming.
“Lauer testified she heard an exchange that was presumably between two people. She then heard a scuffling, ‘like sneakers on pavement and grass,’ ” CBS News reported Thursday.
"It kinda sounded like wrestling," Ms. Lauer said. "At one point I felt like they were going to come through the screen."
Another neighbor, Jayne Surdyka, testified Wednesday that during the struggle, she saw a person in dark clothes on top of the other person. Trayvon was wearing a dark sweat shirt, and Zimmerman wore red clothing.
Ms. Surdyka said she heard cries for help and then multiple gunshots: "pop, pop, pop." However, only one shot was fired in the fatal encounter.
"I truly believe the second yell for help was a yelp," said Surdyka, who later dabbed away tears as prosecutors played her 911 call. "It was excruciating. I really felt it was a boy's voice."
On Friday, Good said he thought the person on the bottom yelled for help, but later acknowledged he was not 100 percent sure, according to Fox News. It was his opinion, he said, that Zimmerman was the one calling for help.
Good also testified that he saw a person in black clothing on top of another person with "white or red" clothing. He said he couldn't see faces but it looked like the person on the bottom had lighter skin. Trayvon was black, while Zimmerman identifies as Hispanic and was wearing a red jacket.
Zimmerman, who has pleaded not guilty, is on trial for second-degree murder for the February 2012 shooting death of Trayvon, 17. Zimmerman's lawyers have said he acted in self-defense after he was attacked.
Under Florida law, all six jurors must be convinced Zimmerman acted with “ill will,” “hatred,” or “an indifference to human life,” notes Reuters.
• Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.
A day after he was arrested for the murder of an acquaintance near his suburban Massachusetts home, NFL star Aaron Hernandez is now under investigation for his possible involvement in another deadly shooting last year.
Hernandez was denied bail for a second time Thursday afternoon, after being held Wednesday night on murder and weapons charges related to the death of Odin Lloyd, whose body was found in an industrial park near the player’s home June 17.
Superior Court Judge Renee Dupuis said she would not grant bail because the state had a 'very, very strong circumstantial case' against Hernandez.
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Meanwhile, authorities are now investigating Hernandez’s potential involvement in a drive-by shooting that killed two men in South Boston last July. The men, Daniel Abreu and Safiro Furtado, had apparently been involved in a nightclub fight with a group that included Hernandez shortly before they were shot and killed at a stoplight while driving home.
Speaking anonymously to The Boston Globe, law enforcement officials said they believe Mr. Lloyd may have known about the earlier shooting, giving Hernandez motive to want him silenced.
The motivation for the murder “might have been that the victim knew [Hernandez] might have been involved,” the official said.
The drive-by case is the latest in a series of recent revelations about Hernandez’s violent past, which have begun to surface over the past week as police investigated his possible role in Lloyd’s death.
Most recently, a Connecticut man filed suit this month alleging that Hernandez shot him outside a Florida nightclub in February, damaging his right eye and requiring several surgeries to rebuild his face.
In the current murder investigation, prosecutors told a judge Wednesday that they possess video footage of Lloyd being shot as he emerged from an SUV thought to contain Hernandez. A surveillance camera at the player’s house later captured him returning home carrying a pistol. Later that day, Hernandez had his house professionally cleaned and apparently smashed his cellphone and home security system.
"He orchestrated the crime from the beginning, he took steps to conceal and destroy evidence, and he took steps to prevent the police from speaking to ... an important witness," the prosecutor said.
Hernandez came to the New England Patriots from the University of Florida as a fourth-round draft pick in 2010, and in 2012 he signed a five-year, $40 million contract with the team. The Patriots announced that he had been cut shortly after his arrest Wednesday.
Police also arrested a second man, Carlos Ortiz, Thursday in connection with the murder of Lloyd. He is being held on $1.5 million bail in a Connecticut jail, Fox News reports.
Bristol County Sheriff Tom Hodgson reported that Hernandez was a “model inmate” and “polite and cooperative” during his first day in jail, according to CNN.
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Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) vigorously defended controversial Texas abortion legislation Thursday, saying it would pass and the dramatic defeat of the bill Tuesday was “nothing more than the hijacking of the democratic process.”
“This is simply too important a cause to allow unruly actions of a few to stand in its way,” Governor Perry said at the opening session of the National Right to Life Convention in Dallas. The organization, which supports grass-roots opposition to abortion rights, had previously scheduled its annual national conference to be held in that city this week.
The abortion legislation had failed at the end of a special legislative session, and on Wednesday, Perry used his gubernatorial powers to call another special session, this one to begin July 1. Texas lawmakers will have 30 days to pass the bill – enough time, supporters hope, to avoid the stalling tactics that allowed Democrats to defeat the bill despite having fewer votes than Republicans.
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“Through their duly elected representatives, the citizens of our state have made crystal clear their priorities for our great state,” Perry said in a statement Wednesday. "Texans value life and want to protect women and the unborn."
Perry used his speech Thursday to warn lawmakers that he is fully committed to passing the controversial abortion bill, which drew national attention after a filibuster by state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) and a raucous crowd at the State Capitol defeated the bill in dramatic fashion.
"The louder they scream, the more we know we are getting something done," Perry said.
Senator Davis said in a statement Wednesday night that if her GOP colleagues intend "to keep pushing their extreme personal political agenda ahead of the interests of Texas families, I will not back off of my duty to fight on their behalf."
Under Texas law, Perry can call as many special sessions as he chooses, and legislators can work only on the agenda the governor sets. Perry has a history of calling special sessions until his legislation is passed, Texas analysts say.
“I thought there was really no question that he would” call the new session, James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin, told The Texas Tribune. “He wasn’t going to relent on abortion legislation that he called them in to pass.”
A decade ago, Perry called repeated special sessions until redistricting legislation he supported passed. Democrats initially bolted town to prevent Republicans from reaching a quorum, but the legislation passed during the third session.
In addition to renewing the abortion debate, Perry asked lawmakers in the next special session to pass two pieces of legislation that also failed with Davis's filibuster: funding for major transportation projects statewide and new, stricter sentencing guidelines for 17-year-olds in capital murder cases. Democrats say they are not opposed to those measures.
During the special session, the entire process starts over, with lawmakers filing the bills that then undergo public hearings before being passed out of committee. Only then can they be considered by both chambers.
But legislators would be able to move the bills quickly, state Rep. Phil King (R) told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
“All three of those bills ... are ready to go,” Representative King said. “We can pass them out of the committees very quickly. We just need to start over where we won’t be up against a quick deadline.”
Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and daughter of the late Texas Gov. Ann Richards, said in a statement Wednesday: "While [Tuesday] was a great victory, we knew the fight was not over. And it's a fight we will win. The nation is watching and we will defeat this again."
Supporters are expected to draft a measure similar to the one that nearly passed this week, which sought a statewide ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The legislation also would have required abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles and mandated clinics that perform abortions to upgrade their facilities to be classified as ambulatory surgical centers.
Defenders of the bill argue that it would strengthen women’s health, while opponents say it would effectively close 37 of 42 clinics in the state and make it difficult for most women to have the procedure done legally.
• Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.