Removal of Sniper Case Judge Sought

Prosecutors Says Jail Trip Was Investigation

Fairfax County prosecutors want the judge in the county's capital murder trial of sniper John Allen Muhammad removed from the case, saying Circuit Court Judge Jonathan C. Thacher is conducting his own investigation.

Prosecutors and legal experts criticized Thacher for going to the Prince William County jail last Tuesday, apparently to research the issue of whether Muhammad's right to a speedy trial was violated.

Judges normally consider only evidence presented to them as part of court proceedings, prosecutors and legal experts said.

Drivers Stuck in Jams 67 Hours a Year

Area Rated Third-Worst for Traffic Congestion

Traffic just keeps getting worse. Now, according to the annual congestion study done by the Texas Transportation Institute, Washington area drivers are spending 67 hours a year in gridlock.

The region also retained its dubious distinction as home to the nation's third-worst congestion -- after Los Angeles, where drivers spend 93 hours stuck in traffic, and the San Francisco Bay area, where drivers on average experience 73 hours of gridlock a year.

Fairfax Changes Admissions Policy

Cap on Science School Applicants Eased

The Fairfax County School Board voted to change the admissions policy for the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in an effort to get more minority students.

Whereas the old admissions policy relied heavily on a standardized test to cut the applicant pool to 800, the new policy will remove the 800-student cap for the first cut.

Students who do less well on tests but have good grades will be allowed to continue the application process, which in its later stages will rely more on teacher recommendations, applicants' essays and other factors.

School Superintendent to Retire

Pr. William Leader Had Sought 2 More Years

After 18 years on the job, Prince William School Superintendent Ed Kelly, 62, announced he will retire at the end of the school year.

Kelly, the longest-serving superintendent in the area, had asked the school board to extend his contract two years when it expires in June, but he said that in conversations with board members, he realized most wanted a new leader.

Kelly has suffered from a brain tumor and other health problems during the last school year.

Settlement Agreed in Sniper Suit

Gun Manufacturer, Store to Pay $2.5 Million

Two survivors and the families of six people killed in the 2002 sniper shootings reached a $2.5 million settlement with the manufacturer of the Bushmaster rifle used in the attacks and the gun store from which it was stolen.

Lawyers for the victims and gun control advocates said this is the first time a gun maker has paid damages for crimes committed with its weapons.

Lawyers for the other side said the settlement was merely the logical end to a lawsuit.

Across the Region

New Grade Guideline; Pledge to Bolster Police

* Some Montgomery County teachers are speaking out against a new guideline that makes 50 out of 100 the lowest possible grade for an assignment, even if a student hands in a blank paper or no paper.

* Prince George's County officials pledged to hire at least 900 police officers over the next six years in an effort to combat crime as the population grows.

* St. Mary's County School Superintendent Patricia Richardson said she will resign at the end of the year to take a job at the University of Maryland. She has been an educator in St. Mary's for 32 years, including eight years as superintendent.

New start: Lucretia Jackson, new principal at Maury Elementary School in Alexandria, greets second-grader Elijah DuBose on Tuesday, the first day of the new school year.