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Nation in brief

Texas Democrats' lawsuit rejected

By Wire services
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 13, 2003

AUSTIN, Texas - A three-judge federal appeals panel on Friday dismissed a lawsuit filed by Democrats in the state Senate who had hoped to derail a new round of Republican-led congressional redistricting in Texas.

The Democrats argued that Senate rule changes by Republicans to further the redistricting effort violated federal law. The judges dismissed those claims.

The ruling represented another setback for Democrats who have been fighting for several months to thwart GOP efforts to redraw the state's congressional map. They say it would hurt minority representation in Congress. The Democrats said they would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Democrats have a 17-15 majority in the current congressional delegation in Washington, and the GOP is pushing plans that would give Republicans as many as 21 seats.

"We said before the ruling that whatever happened today was just one more step in a long and challenging process and there are many unresolved issues that lie ahead," Democratic state Sen. Judith Zaffirini said.

Republicans said the decision reinforced their belief that the Legislature, not the courts, should decide redistricting.

Letter gives reasons for killing Geoghan

BOSTON - A letter purporting to be from Joseph L. Druce, the convict accused of killing former priest John Geoghan in prison, claims Druce was sexually abused as a child and calls for tougher measures against those who prey on children.

The letter calls child sex abuse a "plague on our children."

The handwritten letter also includes an apology to Geoghan's sister and a call for political action to crack down on child sex abusers.

The letter, postmarked Sept.4, was received by the Catholic Free Press, the weekly newspaper of the Worcester diocese, which published a story about it.

The letter bore Druce's correct prison ID number and a Department of Correction stamp. It was postmarked from Worcester, as is all mail from the prison where Druce is being held.

Department of Correction spokesman Justin Latini said, "It's reasonable to believe he mailed that letter," but acknowledged he couldn't rule out fraud.

4 killed in convenience store robbery

WESTLAND, Mich. - A man opened fire at a convenience store after apparently botching a robbery of the business, killing four people and wounding two others before he and his girlfriend led authorities on a chase in their Corvette, police said.

The man shot and killed himself in a residential backyard after crashing the car and fleeing on foot with his girlfriend, who was arrested minutes later in the same yard.

Police Chief Dan Pfannes said Leslie Gordon, 24, acted as a lookout Thursday night as Michael Lamont Schofield, 30, fired one shot each into the two clerks and four customers at Neil's Party Store in Westland, a Detroit suburb.


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