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Jury questioned before weighing murderer's fate

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published October 19, 2006


A jury set to deliberate the fate of a man convicted of the December 1997 slayings of four people was unexpectedly told by the judge Wednesday to fill out a questionnaire, then sent home for the weekend. Circuit Judge Susan Roberts did not explain her action in the penalty phase of 68-year-old Nelson Ivan Serrano's murder trial. She told jurors to come back Monday morning and ordered prosecutors and defense lawyers not to discuss the delay. The jury on Oct. 11 found Serrano guilty of gunning down a former business partner and three bystanders at a Bartow garment conveyor factory. Prosecutors are seeking a death sentence. Testimony in the penalty phase of the trial had been delayed for two days while attorneys and the judge debated legal and technical issues, including how much emotion the victims' family members could display while testifying about the loss of their loved ones.

Trial set in boot camp civil case

A judge set an April 16 trial date for a lawsuit filed by the parents of a teenager who died after guards roughed him up at a boot camp. In preliminary rulings Monday, U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle also dismissed the family's claim of a federal civil rights violation by the state Department of Juvenile Justice, while letting a similar claim against the Bay County Sheriff's Office remain part of the suit. Martin Lee Anderson's parents sued in July, seeking more than $40-million from the juvenile justice agency, which oversaw the boot camp program, and the Sheriff's Office, which ran the camp. The 14-year-old's death in January after the videotaped encounter with guards sparked protests and led to the elimination of the military-style camps. The judge also removed claims for punitive damages against both defendants, but will let a jury consider compensatory damages. A special prosecutor's investigation could still result in criminal charges against the guards.

Tuberculosis case found in school

A case of tuberculosis has been confirmed at Nolan Middle School in Manatee County. Because of privacy laws, officials would not say whether the patient is a student or adult, but said the person is responding to treatment. Manatee County Health Department officials have identified about 160 people who have been in close contact with the individual, and have asked them to submit to skin tests for the bacterium that causes TB. All are from the school, which has about 760 students and 60 faculty members, said a district spokeswoman.

U.S. prosecutor charged in fatality

A Jacksonville-based federal prosecutor has been charged with vehicular homicide in the death of a woman in a March 25 accident in St. Johns County. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Gallagher, 50, was speeding when he rear-ended a sport utility vehicle, the Florida Highway Patrol said. The SUV overturned, and Cory Hastings, 23, of Columbia, S.C., a passenger, was thrown out. She died two days later. Her fiance suffered minor injuries.