Florida Governor Calls Special Session on Guns

GOV. Lawton Chiles (D) of Florida called a special legislative session on bills to take guns away from youths and to deal with an insurance crisis arising from Hurricane Andrew claims.

The governor had already planned to call a special session on workers' compensation and homeowners' insurance. He added the crime proposal because of worldwide publicity of tourists being killed in Florida.

``This session provides an opportunity to act decisively in response to some clearly identified problems that confront our people and our state,'' Governor Chiles said. ``Our efforts on these issues can help to better protect Florida's businesses and workers, property owners, residents, and visitors.''

Chiles set the session for Nov. 1-5. He did not endorse a specific gun proposal.

Ten foreign visitors have been killed in Florida in the past year. At least six teenagers have been charged in the deaths.

A bill drafted by James Moore, commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, would prohibit anyone under age 18 from possessing a gun except for hunting or marksmanship while supervised by an adult. First offenders would spend five days in jail and be forced to perform 200 hours of community service.

Chiles also wants lawmakers to pass bills to reduce rising workers' compensation premiums by 20 percent. In addition, he wants to deal with the post-Hurricane Andrew homeowners' insurance mess, where 844,000 policyholders are in danger of cancellation by companies seeking less risk in a future storm. A moratorium on cancellations imposed by the Legislature expires on Nov. 15. A federal judge has indicated he will strike the ban down if lawmakers try to impose it again. Denny Trial Resumes

After eight tumultuous days of deliberations, the jury in the Reginald Denny beating trial is starting over without a juror who the others complained couldn't grasp the issues.

Superior Court Judge John Ouderkirk removed the juror on Oct. 11 after receiving a note about her from the forewoman.

The woman ``cannot comprehend anything that we've been trying to accomplish,'' the forewoman wrote. She added: ``This has nothing to do with her views on issues or her personality. She doesn't use common sense.''

The anonymous, sequestered jury is deciding the fate of two black men accused of attacking Mr. Denny, a white truck driver. Deliberations were to resume Oct 12.

After receiving complaints earlier about a problem juror, the judge on Oct. 9 gave jurors the rest of the weekend to cool off.

Damian Williams and Henry Watson are charged with attempting to murder Denny in 1992 during the riots that broke out after four white policemen were acquitted in state court in the beating of black motorist Rodney King. The defendants could get life in prison.

Meanwhile, the two policemen convicted in federal court of violating Mr. King's civil rights, Officer Laurence Powell and Sgt. Stacey Koon, were scheduled to report to prison Oct. 12 to begin their 2 1/2-year sentences.

The dismissed juror, who is black, was replaced by a young Asian-American woman drawn by lottery from among the alternates. The jury in the racially volatile case now consists of three blacks, two Asian-Americans, three whites, and four Hispanics.

Defense lawyers objected to the juror's removal, which was requested by the prosecution, and asked the judge to declare a mistrial. He refused. ``I absolutely believe that this court has no authority whatsoever to remove this juror,'' defense attorney Edi Faal said. ``There is no evidence of improper conduct or misconduct on the part of this juror.''

Michael Brennan, a professor at the University of Southern California Law Center, said the reason for dismissing the juror was unusual. Illness and failure to abide by court instructions are the most common reasons, he said.

``Unless the court goes through some very special procedures, it's dangerous to take the votes of 11 other jurors who say they don't want a particular person on the jury. It's not a popularity contest.''

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.