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News Briefs, part 1

Clinton Meets with Haitian Leaders

Los Angeles Times


President Clinton, saying he wanted to "reaffirm the support of the United States" for Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide, met for 45 minutes at the White House Monday with the exiled leader and Haitian Prime Minister Robert Malval.

The meeting came amid efforts by Malval and others to restart internal negotiations with the reigning military junta that might lead to a resolution of Haiti's political deadlock.

Earlier in the day, Malval, who has said repeatedly that he would step down as prime minister on Dec. 15, announced he would remain in Haiti as acting prime minister beyond the deadline.

"Our country is in a very deep political problem -- in an impasse -- and we must find a way out," Malval said in an afternoon press conference in which he announced his intentions.

Malval said he would welcome all Haitian parties including the military to a new round of negotiations but insisted that "in no way will we get out of the framework of the Governor's Island agreement."

The agreement, signed by both parties in the Haitian dispute, committed the military junta that overthrew Aristide in a 1990 coup to allow him to return to his post. In exchange, Aristide -- Haiti's first democratically elected president -- agreed to grant amnesty to the military leaders who carried out the coup.

But the junta, led by Gen. Raoul Cedras, has reneged on the deal, which would have returned Aristide to power by the end of October. They contend Aristide has not taken all the necessary steps to assure their protection from prosecution.

Former Priest Porter Sentenced for Sexual Abuse

Los Angeles Times


After hearing 22 men and women describe their pain and anger in impassioned statements Monday, Superior Court Judge Robert L. Steadman sentenced former Roman Catholic priest James Porter to concurrent sentences of 18 to 20 years at a Massachusetts State prison.

Porter pleaded guilty on Oct. 4 to 41 counts of sexual abuse between 1961 and 1967 at five parishes in southeastern Massachusetts. He is expected to serve at least 12 years.

More than 100 victims of the former priest reached a civil agreement with the local archdiocese in 1992. Porter's case offers the largest example of clerical sexual abuse -- or abuse by any individual -- in American judicial history.

As part of his 10-year probation, Steadman also ordered Porter to "participate in and follow through programs designed to treat and control his pedophilia."

Court Agrees to Hear Challenge To Califorina Death Penalty Law

Los Angeles Times


The Supreme Court said Monday it would hear a major challenge to California's death penalty law, agreeing to rule on whether jurors are given enough guidance in deciding whether to sentence a convicted killer to death or life in prison.

In choosing to review the law, the justices voted to hear appeals filed on behalf of two Death Row inmates: Paul Tuilaepa, who shot four men in a Long Beach, Calif., bar in 1986 and killed one of them, and William Proctor who at age 20 was convicted of strangling a Shasta County school teacher.

In both cases, their attorneys contended that the state's death penalty law was vague and did not spell out for jurors which factors in the crime or characteristics of the killer called for the death sentence.

That technical legal issue obviously has drawn the court's attention. On two occasions in recent weeks, the justices have examined five separate appeals from California Death Row inmates in their private conferences.

In a brief order Monday, they announced they would hear the two cases early next year and devote 90 minutes of argument to the question of whether the law is unconstitutionally vague.

"We are not alarmed, (but) we are taking it seriously," state Attorney General Dan Lungren said in Sacramento, Calif. "We think we have a strong case and we don't anticipate losing."

As of Nov. 1, there are 376 inmates on Death Row, but no executions are scheduled during the next few months, prosecutors said.