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Nation in brief

Ex-Ill. chief often granted clemency

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 3, 2003

CHICAGO -- Former Gov. George Ryan was quietly issuing hundreds of pardons long before he decided to empty Illinois' death row last month, an Associated Press review of state records found.

Including the 167 death sentences he commuted days before he left office, the Republican granted 643 clemency requests during his four-year term -- nearly twice as many as his predecessor granted in eight years. Records kept by the Illinois Prisoner Review Board show Ryan granted more than one in every three requests for clemency filed during his term.

Mont. avalanche kills snowmobiler

HELENA, Mont. -- An avalanche in western Montana killed one man and temporarily buried another, authorities said.

Jason Troyer, 21, of Fairfield, probably suffocated after he was covered by 12 to 15 feet of snow Saturday, said Ray Vonada, Lewis and Clark County chief deputy coroner.

Troyer's snowmobile became stuck and a friend, Wendell Baer, 27, of Stevensville, helped free the sled, said Clark County Undersheriff Leo Dutton. Then an avalanche occurred, and the two were buried.

It left Baer's helmet and hand sticking out of the snow. Unlike Troyer, he was wearing a transceiver, which helped the rest of the party find him.

Also . . .

PA. GROUNDHOG EMERGES: As an anxious crowd shivered in 33-degree temperatures early Sunday, Punxsutawney Phil emerged from his burrow in Punxsutawney, Pa., and saw his shadow on Gobbler's Knob, suggesting another six weeks of wintry weather, according to superstition.

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