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News Briefs

Death Row Delays Not ‘Cruel and Unusual’ Court Declares


The Supreme Court refused Monday to direct states to step up the pace of executions so that inmates do not have to wait on death row for years.

Over two justices’ objections, the court turned down the appeals of Florida and Nebraska inmates, who argued that it is “cruel and unusual punishment” to execute a prisoner after he has had to spend years in suspense and fear in the closely confined quarters on death row.

The inmates contended that, when the delay is the fault of the state, not the inmate, the Constitution should block execution after postponements that run 20 years or beyond.

Florida inmate Thomas Knight, who also uses the name Askari Abdullah Muhammad, has been on death row 24 years and six months. Nebraska prisoner Carey Dean Moore has awaited execution for 19 years and four months. Each was sentenced to death after being convicted of murder.

For years, a majority of the justices has shown deep impatience over the time-consuming delays of execution that result from repeated appeals by inmates. But it has displayed no interest -- although the issue has been raised several times -- in delays that could be blamed on state inaction.

Primary Marks a Change For Mexican Politics


With an overwhelming triumph in Mexico’s first open presidential primary, Francisco Labastida has become the odds-on favorite to win the presidency next year and keep the world’s longest-ruling party in power into the 21st century.

Labastida, 57, a three-time Cabinet member widely perceived as the favorite of leaders of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, has two big advantages as he heads into the July 2000 race. First, his party won democratic credentials by holding a relatively clean primary on Sunday, jettisoning a much-criticized tradition in which the sitting president had virtually named his successor.

Second, Mexico’s opposition is divided into left- and right-wing parties, splitting the anti-PRI vote. Those parties’ attempt to form a coalition collapsed in September.

“Without the alliance, for the moment, everything indicates the PRI will win in 2000,” said Lorenzo Meyer, a prominent historian at Colegio de Mexico.

Russian Warplanes Pound Chechen Capital


Russian warplanes repeatedly pounded the capital of Chechnya and attacked convoys on the roads of the separatist republic Monday, as top Russian officials shrugged off increasing Western pressure for a negotiated settlement there.

Russian military officials said Monday afternoon that attack planes had flown 30 sorties in the previous 24 hours, dropping 550-pound and 1,100-pound bombs on Grozny, Chechnya’s capital, Gudermes, its second-largest city, and Bamut, a rebel stronghold.

According to the officials at Russian military headquarters in Mozdok, Russian planes also hit convoys of fighters on Sunday and Monday, destroying 18 cars and trucks.

There have been several cases of heavy civilian casualties in Russian attacks on convoys in recent weeks -- 11 days ago an airstrike on a marked Red Cross convoy killed 27 people.