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News Briefs

Florida Court Halts Execution As Death Penalty Is Reviewed
LOS ANGELES TIMES -- Linroy Bottoson, a convicted murderer, had eaten what might have been his final meal of seafood, fried chicken, apple pie and butter-pecan ice cream. But six hours before the 63-year-old was supposed to die by lethal injection, Florida’s Supreme Court halted his execution.

The justices wanted to reconsider whether the state’s death penalty is constitutional, in light of a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Their action Monday threw capital cases across Florida into uncertainty and raised the possibility that all 371 inmates on the state’s death row could have their sentences overturned. It also could have national repercussions.

“It’s going to produce a lot of litigation and the need for a lot of hearings and legal work to get to the point where it’s all clarified,” predicted Nancy Daniels, a public defender in Tallahassee.

The surprise 6-1 decision by Florida’s highest court to temporarily stay the executions of Bottoson and 47-year-old Amos Lee King Jr. -- another killer who was scheduled to die Wednesday -- was motivated by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in an Arizona case.

In Ring v. Arizona, the high court said that only a jury, and not a judge alone, can impose a death sentence. The justices’ decision threw out the death penalty laws in Arizona and four other states -- Colorado, Idaho, Montana and Nebraska. Legal scholars said it still was uncertain how the ruling applies to Florida Alabama, Delaware and Indiana -- where juries make recommendations on whether a criminal should live or die, but the judge makes the final decision.

Small Biotech Firm Has Big Plans For Production of Antibodies
LOS ANGELES TIMES -- A small California biotech company said Tuesday it has exclusive rights to a new patent on a technique for producing therapeutic antibodies from corn and other farm crops. Epicyte Pharmaceuticals of San Diego claimed the patent gives it a leadership position in an emerging industry, potentially worth millions, with competitors including such agricultural giants as Monsanto Co.

The patent was granted to Scripps Research Institute, where the technology was developed by Epicyte’s founders in 1989. Epicyte said the patent applies to all plants and all antibodies -- whether human or animal.

Antibodies are proteins naturally made by white blood cells that defend the body against disease. They can target specific invaders without disturbing other cells.

Drug makers produce antibodies for cancer and other diseases using conventional genetic engineering techniques. Of the 11 antibody-based drugs on the market, none are made in plants.

Most therapeutic antibodies are manufactured in hamster ovary cells, an intricate process that requires sterile factories with fermentation tanks and sophisticated purification equipment.

But 90 antibody-based drugs are in various stages of development at biotechnology companies. That has ignited a search for cost-effective ways to produce large quantities of antibodies, valued because they can target disease while causing few side effects.

Giuliani’s Divorce May Go to Court
NEWSDAY -- If they fail to smooth out their considerable differences in private negotiation by Wednesday morning, former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and his estranged wife, Donna Hanover, could go to trial immediately to fight out the terms of their acrimonious divorce.

Though they have had lengthy negotiations behind closed doors during the past week, it was unclear late Tuesday whether the sparring spouses would be able to come to a settlement. Their feud has been complicated by Giuliani’s windfall of speaking and writing fees since leaving office, having steadied the city in arguably its darkest hour -- on and after Sept. 11.

Court records show Giuliani expects to take in $8 million for speeches alone this year, a far cry from his $195,000 annual salary as mayor.

Giuliani, 57, filed for divorce in October 2000, charging Hanover with “cruel and inhuman” treatment during their 16-year marriage.

Hanover, 52, rejected that claim, but filed her own divorce action last month on grounds of cruelty stemming from what her lawyer called “Rudy’s open and notorious adultery.” The still-married Giuliani paraded his new companion, Judith Nathan, 47, at public events while he was mayor and a candidate for U.S. Senate.

Gateway to Offer Classes On Downloading Music Legally
LOS ANGELES TIMES -- Rip, mix, learn?

Computer retailer Gateway Inc. plans to provide free classes to consumers on the dos and don’ts of online music, showing how to download music and burn CDs without violating copyrights.

The three-hour classes -- to be held at all 274 Gateway Country retail stores -- may help deflect criticism from record-label executives, who argue that companies like Gateway encourage consumers to pirate music and movies online to boost sales of their computers, CD recorders and related gear.

Some music and movie industry leaders back a bill in the Senate to mandate anti-piracy technology in computers and other digital devices, a proposal Gateway opposes. Other groups want lawmakers to slap a special tax on the sale of computers, Internet connections and blank CDs to compensate copyright holders for piracy.

Other computer firms, including Apple Computer, have infuriated the entertainment industry over the last several years, as hardware makers tout the power of using their equipment to swap music and movies.

Gateway spokesman Brad Williams said the way to fight piracy is by offering consumers a compelling legitimate alternative. Although the music industry has “some very legitimate grievances” about piracy, he said, “we haven’t seen much from the major labels in terms of educating consumers.”