Maryland to repeal death penalty
Annapolis, Md. • Maryland lawmakers approved a measure abolishing the death penalty on Friday and sent the bill to Gov. Martin O'Malley, who has long supported banning capital punishment.
The House of Delegates voted 82-56 for legislation already approved by the Senate. Eighty Democrats and two Republicans voted for the bill, which needed 71 to pass. Eighteen Democrats joined 38 Republicans to vote against it.
The vote represented a major win for the Democratic governor, who has pushed for the death penalty's repeal for five years. He is also widely believed to be weighing a presidential bid in 2016.
Supporters of repeal argued that the death penalty is costly, racially biased, a poor deterrent of crime and sometimes wrongfully applied. The possibility of executing the innocent prompted many lawmakers to support the repeal measure.
N.Y. carjacker kills mom, rapes child, 10
Albany, N.Y. • A man previously charged with having child pornography cut an electronic monitoring device off his ankle before carjacking a woman, fatally stabbing her and raping her 10-year-old daughter, authorities said.
David J. Renz abducted the school librarian and her daughter as they left a gymnastics class at a mall in the Syracuse suburb of Clay, about 150 miles west of Albany, on Thursday night, state police said Friday.
Renz bound both victims, raped the girl and drove a short distance to a spot where the girl escaped and was found by a passing motorist, troopers said. The motorist told 911 dispatchers he saw a man running away from the scene, allowing police to quickly capture him.
Mom reviled for son's murder may go free
Phoenix • Debra Milke was once one of the most reviled mothers around, convicted of dressing her 4-year-old son in his favorite outfit and sending him off to visit a mall Santa Claus with two men who shot the boy execution-style in the Arizona desert.
Milke said she had nothing to do with Christopher's death, but a detective testified at her 1990 trial that she had confessed to him and him alone in a closed interrogation room. Prosecutors said she had her son killed to collect on a $5,000 insurance policy.
Now, Milke could walk free, leaving death row behind after a federal appeals court threw out her conviction Thursday because prosecutors had not turned over evidence of the detective's history of misconduct, including lying under oath in other cases.
Barring a successful appeal of Thursday's ruling, prosecutors will have to decide if they have enough evidence to retry Milke. The ruling doesn't toss out the supposed confession. It just allows defense lawyers to have all of the detective's police files.
Colorado to expand firearms checks
Denver • A landmark expansion of background checks on firearm purchases was approved Friday by lawmakers in Colorado, a politically moderate state that was the site of last year's mass shooting at a suburban Denver movie theater.
The bill previously passed the state Senate and now heads to Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, who is expected to sign it into law.
Earlier this week, Colorado lawmakers approved a 15-round limit on ammunition magazines. It is also awaiting the expected approval of the governor.
The bill passed Friday expands when a $10 criminal background check would be required to legally transfer a gun. Republicans have opposed the bill, calling it an undue burden on law-abiding gun owners. "We know for a fact that whatever law we pass criminals won't care," said Republican Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg.
Transplanted organs infected with rabies
A 20-year-old Air Force recruit who died of rabies had symptoms of the disease but wasn't tested before his organs were transplanted to four patients, one of whom died of rabies nearly 18 months later, federal health officials said Friday.
The three other organ recipients are getting rabies shots and haven't displayed any symptoms. Doctors at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declined to speculate on their chances for survival.
Matthew Kuehnert, director of the agency's Office of Blood, Organ and Other Tissue Safety, said investigators don't know why doctors in Florida didn't test the donor for rabies before offering his kidneys, heart and liver to people in Florida, Georgia, Illinois and Maryland.
A rabies test after a death can take four hours once the tissue reaches a lab in Atlanta, New York and California, said Richard Franka of the CDC's rabies team. That's precious time, considering a donated kidney remains viable for less than 24 hours; other organs last for less than six.
The donor died in 2011 in Florida. His cause of death was listed as encephalitis of unknown origin.