Peterson Jury Allowed

To Consider Lesser Charges

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. -- The judge in the Scott Peterson case ruled Friday that the jury will be allowed to consider a lesser murder charge that would spare him a possible death sentence if he is convicted.

Legal experts said the ruling is a victory for the prosecution because allowing the lesser charges could make it easier for jurors to convict if they are unsure whether the killing was premeditated.

Peterson faces two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of his pregnant wife and the fetus she was carrying. Prosecutors are seeking life without parole or the death penalty under those charges. But the judge ruled jurors, who will get the case next week, also will have the choice of second-degree murder charges, which could bring two sentences of 15 years to life in prison.

* RALEIGH, N.C. -- The campaign plane carrying Sen. John Edwards to West Virginia was forced to return to Raleigh-Durham International Airport after a 9-volt battery carried by an ABC News sound technician exploded in the rear cabin, causing a small fire that was quickly extinguished. Edwards, his wife and their two youngest children were aboard the plane in the front cabin.

* HOUSTON -- The NASA turbojet called the "vomit comet" for its use in training astronauts for weightlessness made its final flight. Few among the two dozen seasoned passengers aboard got sick, but an official said that over the years, the crew of the KC-135 had cleaned up at least 285 gallons of vomit.

* CAPE CANAVERAL -- NASA, recovering from four hurricanes that halted work at its Florida spaceport, set a launch target in May 2005 for the first space shuttle flight since the 2003 Columbia disaster. The launch window would run from May 12 to June 3, NASA said.

* SEATTLE -- A cruise operator ferrying U.S. residents to Canada for flu shots said it has cut back on its service because of overwhelming demand and concerns about diminishing supplies north of the border. Slots for flu-shot-seeking Victoria Clipper passengers are limited to 150 daily until the third week of November, an official said.

* SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Federal regulators told Illinois officials they will examine a flu vaccine manufactured in France before clearing it for use by state residents. The 262,000 doses were made by Aventis Pasteur, a French drug company with a plant in Pennsylvania. Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) has said testing shows the French vaccine is identical to that used in the United States.

* ONTARIO, Calif. -- Fidencio Guzman, 89, was fatally shot by three teenagers as he took his daily walk in the park Thursday, police said. The youths allegedly incriminated each other during questioning and were booked for investigation of murder, police said.

* VERNAL, Utah -- Two students were charged in an alleged plot to bomb the commons of their high school in eastern Utah and kill classmates and teachers. Two other teens, both juveniles, also were arrested but had not been charged, police said. According to court documents, some of the suspects' parents also may have been targets.

-- From News Services and Staff Reports