MARYLAND

Court Backs Church Group's School Fliers

An evangelical group's plan to distribute fliers to students in two Montgomery County elementary schools does not amount to an unconstitutional endorsement of religion, a divided federal appeals court ruled yesterday.

In a 2 to 1 decision, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, based in Richmond, reversed a judge's ruling blocking the Child Evangelic Fellowship's access to the Montgomery schools' take-home flier program. The court sent the matter back to U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte in Greenbelt for further proceedings.

Messitte's ruling barred the group from giving literature to students at Mill Creek Towne Elementary School in Rockville and Clearspring Elementary School in Damascus. The materials, to be taken home to parents, invited students to attend "Good News Club" meetings, which offer Bible lessons and other religious activities after school.

The school district said it barred the group because the flier program is not open to "proselytization" or "evangelical groups." The appeals court said that amounted to unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination.

Woman, 77, Dies After Being Hit by Truck

A 77-year-old woman who was struck by a vehicle Monday while crossing the street in Montgomery County has died, county police said yesterday.

Joan M. Meiller of the 500 block of Brighton Knolls Drive in Brinklow was crossing near New Hampshire Avenue and Olney-Sandy Spring Road about 9:20 a.m. when she was struck by a Ford Bronco that was pulling out a gas station, police said. She was not in the crosswalk, police said.

A Maryland State Police helicopter took Meiller to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where she died Tuesday morning. The 38-year-old driver of the Ford was not injured and remained at the scene of the accident, police said.

The police department said it was investigating the matter.

Ehrlich Fills Arundel School Board Post

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) yesterday appointed Annapolis lawyer Michael G. Leahy to the Anne Arundel County Board of Education. Leahy was the top vote-getter in the nominating convention that civic leaders in Anne Arundel use to recommend board candidates to the governor. Leahy, who replaces Anthony J. Spencer, was appointed to a five-year term.

The governor also appointed Sarah K. Ferguson, who will be a senior at Arundel High School this fall, as the student representative to the board. Ferguson, who has full voting rights, was recommended by the Chesapeake Regional Association of Student Councils.

Four Join State Board of Education

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. appointed four people to the State Board of Education yesterday.

They are one-time Baltimore mayoral candidate David F. Tufaro, College of Southern Maryland professor Lelia T. Allen, retired business executive J. Henry Butta and civic activist Beverly A. Cooper. Brian A. Williamson also was selected as the student member of the board.

Tufaro, a real estate developer, ran unsuccessfully for mayor as a Republican in 1999.

The 12-member board is the policy-making body for public schools through the 12th grade, as well as public libraries and vocational rehabilitation services.

Butta, Cooper and Tufaro were appointed to four-year terms beginning today. Allen fills a vacancy on the board, and his term ends July 1, 2006.

Metrobus Injures Construction Worker

A Metrobus trying to get around a construction site in Bethesda yesterday hit one of the workers, sending him to the hospital with serious head injuries, a Metro spokesman said. About 8:10 a.m., a Route J4 bus was traveling west on East West Highway near Meadow Lane when it tried to merge into the left lane because of construction in the curb lane, spokesman Steven Taubenkibel said.

A construction worker who was painting lines on the street in the curb lane was struck by the bus and knocked into a small trench, Taubenkibel said. He was taken to Suburban Hospital with a serious head injury, he said. No one else was injured.

The 28-year-old bus driver, who began working for Metro in April, was removed from service, pending drug and alcohol tests, Taubenkibel said. The 15 passengers were transferred to another bus.

VIRGINIA

Federal Judge Halts Inmate's Execution

A federal judge halted the execution of a Virginia state prison inmate yesterday after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his appeal earlier in the day.

Michael Lenz, 40, had been scheduled to die tonight for fatally stabbing a fellow inmate. He was convicted of stabbing Brent Parker 68 times at the Augusta Correctional Center in 2000.

U.S. District Judge Samuel Wilson of Charlottesville issued a stay of execution to allow Lenz to pursue a habeas appeal in federal court. That is a different type of appeal from the one that the U.S. Supreme Court rejected yesterday.

Lenz, who had been serving a seven-year sentence for a string of burglaries in Prince William County, had argued that he was the high priest of a Nordic cult and that Parker was trying to intimidate him out of the cult.

Pedestrian Fatally Struck in Springfield

A man walking across Old Keene Mill Road in Springfield was struck and killed by at least one vehicle Tuesday night, and police were trying yesterday to identify him.

The man was crossing near Lee Valley Road about 11:30 p.m., Fairfax County police said. He was hit by a 1997 Mercury Mountaineer driven by a 17-year-old male whose name was not released, police said, adding that he might have been hit by a second vehicle as he lay in the roadway.

The man was taken to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where he died. He was described as about 5 feet 8 inches to 5 feet 10 inches tall and having light brown skin, a slight build, bushy hair and a mustache. He was wearing jeans, work boots and a hat.

Anyone with information about the man may call Fairfax police at 703-691-2131.

"The Supreme Court has told me that what I did a week ago was plainly illegal. By my count, Mr. Watson, you're a free man in a few hours."

-- U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, as he reduced the sentence for North Carolina tobacco farmer Dwight W. Watson, who drove his tractor into a pond on the Mall last year and threatened to blow himself up. -- Page A1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Allan Lengel, Christian Davenport, Lindsey Layton, Jerry Markon and Tom Jackman and the Associated Press.