Court Hears Schiavo Case

TALLAHASSEE -- The Florida Supreme Court justices suggested Tuesday that state lawmakers did an end run around the court system by passing a law that let Gov. Jeb Bush (R) order the reinsertion of a brain-damaged woman's feeding tube.

The high court heard arguments in the case of Terri Schiavo, who is at the center of one of the nation's longest and most bitter right-to-die battles. This is the first time Florida's highest court has agreed to take up any aspect of the 14-year-old case.

Justice Charles Wells said he was troubled because he had to conclude that "Terri's Law," passed last October, was designed to sidestep a trial court's ruling that found "clear and convincing evidence" Schiavo would not want to be kept alive artificially.

Bush attorney Robert Destro, a law professor at Catholic University, said the Legislature was simply trying to protect the woman.

The high court did not indicate when it would rule.

* BOSTON -- A Maine judge ruled that school and town officials in Falmouth did not illegally discriminate against disabled child Jan Rankowski, 9, when they banned him from a school playground last year. Jan is home-schooled and suffers from Asperger syndrome, a neurological disorder. School officials said he was barred for misbehaving. His mother, Gayle Fitzpatrick, said she plans to appeal the decision.

* CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- A Navy medic who served at a Marine detention facility in Iraq testified during a court-martial that he saw guards beating newly arrived inmates to intimidate them. Petty Officer Carlton Blay said he saw defendant Sgt. Gary Pittman and other Marine reservists punch and slap 10 to 15 detainees but not Nagem Sadoon Hatab, the Iraqi inmate whose death is the focus of the trial. Pittman, 40, faces two years in prison if he is convicted of assault and dereliction of duty.

* DECATUR, Ga. -- Clarence Harrison, 44, who was wrongly convicted of rape, kidnapping and robbery, was freed after 17 years in prison -- exonerated by a new test of DNA evidence.

* NEW YORK -- Former New York police commissioner Bernard Kerik wants to run for governor of New Jersey, but he cannot. The state constitution requires any gubernatorial candidate to live in New Jersey for at least seven years. Kerik, who was born and raised in Paterson, moved out of New Jersey when he became a New York police officer in 1986.

* SALT LAKE CITY -- A judge found Brian Mitchell, 50, competent to stand trial in the kidnapping of teenager Elizabeth Smart, after the man's lawyers decided not to contest the issue. Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee, 58, are charged with kidnapping Smart from her bedroom at knifepoint in 2002, and keeping her for nine months. She was 14 when she was abducted.

* Federal safety officials said an alert system could have warned a towboat crew that its pilot had fainted and prevented the deadly collapse of the Interstate 40 bridge near Webbers Falls, Okla., in 2002. The National Transportation Safety Board also said fewer people might have died had there been a warning system to alert motorists that the bridge had fallen.

-- From News Services and Staff Reports