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News Briefs 2

Judge in Bombing Case Seeks Affirmation of His Status

Los Angeles Times

The judge assigned to preside over the Oklahoma City bombing trial asked an appeals court Monday to affirm his decision to remain on the case, despite the objections of defense attorneys who contend he cannot be objective because the blast damaged his chambers and courtroom.

U.S. District Judge Wayne E. Alley "is not a victim" and "does not regard himself as a victim" of the blast, attorney Harry F. Tepker Jr. wrote on behalf of the judge.

"No reasonable person not present on April 19 and not suffering any personal loss or injury would believe themselves to be a victim," Tepker wrote in papers filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals in Denver. Alley was not present on the day of the explosion.

Federal prosecutors also asked the appellate court to consider the question of Alley's recusal, expressing concerns that if the court did not consider the matter rigorously, attorneys for accused bombing conspirators Timothy J. McVeigh and Terry L. Nichols might have any conviction tossed out on appeal.

The prosecutors said there is no similar case like the one in Oklahoma City, where the judge appears to be affected by the April 19 tragedy that left 169 people dead and more than 600 injured.

Alley has already ruled that he would not step aside. He contended that his courtroom and chambers were only slightly damaged. And he noted that he was not in the courthouse on the morning of the blast and that he left town for personal reasons soon after the bombing.

Browns to Move to Baltimore

The Washington Post

Eleven years after losing its beloved Colts, Baltimore exulted Monday in the announcement that the Cleveland Browns, one of the National Football League's historic franchises, will move here to a $200 million publicly financed stadium to be built near Oriole Park at Camden Yards by 1998.

In a pep-rally atmosphere, with more than a hundred uninvited fans cheering at the site of the proposed stadium, Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening stood beside Browns owner Art Modell and delivered the long-awaited good news to this city for which the Colts were a source of civic pride and identity from 1947 to 1984.

"This is truly a proud moment in the long and rich history of this proud city of Baltimore and this state of Maryland," Glendening said.

Possible impediments to the move to Baltimore still stand in the way. Cleveland obtained a judge's temporary restraining order Monday to prevent the team from moving before a Nov. 20 hearing. Modell said he planned to move the franchise to Baltimore after the regular season ends in December.

NFL owners could vote to block the move with as few as seven votes, although some legal specialists say recent team transfers have chipped away at the league's authority. League officials said they would not vote on the Browns' proposed move before January.

Modell, who said he plans to live in Baltimore, said he was sad to leave his home of three decades. "I am deeply sorry from the bottom of my heart," he told the many Cleveland reporters covering the event.

Menendez Trial Enters Final Phase

Los Angeles Times

Erik Menendez hung his head, Lyle Menendez averted his gaze and some of their supporters ate candy in court on Monday as jurors were shown dozens of gruesome photographs of the shotgunned bodies of parents Jos and Kitty Menendez.

So began the final phase of the prosecution's case in the retrial of the Menendez brothers of Beverly Hills, accused of murdering their parents in the den of the family's mansion six years ago.

Deputy District Attorney David P. Conn called private pathologist Robert D. Lawrence to the witness stand, bypassing the Los Angeles County deputy cornoner who performed the autopsies, and who had testified during the brothers' first trial.

That trial ended last year with jurors deadlocked between murder and manslaughter convictions.

Lawrence's testimony signaled the prosecution's revised scenario for the crime scene: The brothers executed their parents, prosecutors say, then shot them in the legs to suggest organized crime involvement, thereby deflecting suspicion from themselves.

Erik and Lyle Menendez, 24 and 27 respectively, admit shooting their parents, but claim they fired in a blind panic out of fear their parents would kill them first. The defense is expected to call mental health experts to demonstrate they suffered from "battered person syndome" that distorted their perception of danger.

Cochrane No Longer in Rapper Trial

Los Angeles Times

Prosecutors in the Snoop Doggy Dogg murder trial on Monday dropped charges against a co-defendant who was in the rear seat of the rapper's Jeep at the time of the alleged 1993 drive-by killing.

Although the prosecutors Ed Nison and Bobby Grace said they will consider refiling murder charges against Sean Abrams at a later date, the decision Monday removes from the courtroom -- at least temporarily -- a lawyer that the district attorney's office has had some trouble with in a recent unrelated murder case: Johnnie L. Cochran Jr.

"My client shouldn't have been here to begin with," said Cochran, who agreed to represent Abrams before O.J. Simpson was arrested last year. "He was overcharged. I think (the dismissal) is overdue and I think it's appropriate."

Outside court, Abrams quipped that he was "going to Disneyland."

Abrams along with Snoop (a.k.a. Calvin Broadus) and McKinley Lee, the rapper's former bodyguard, were accused of murder in the Aug. 25, 1993, shooting death of Philip Woldemariam, 20, in a West Los Angeles park.