SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – A federal judge ruled Friday that Illinois’ restrictions on the sale of violent and sexually explicit video games to minors are unconstitutional and barred the state from enforcing the law. State officials “have come nowhere near” demonstrating that the law passes constitutional muster, the U.S. District Court judge said. Gov. Rod Blagojevich and other supporters of the measure argued that children were being harmed by exposure to games in which characters go on killing sprees or sexual escapades. Opponents declared the law a restriction on free speech and pointed out that similar laws had been struck down in other states.
D.C.: Warning on FEMA clothing
The Federal Protective Service has advised 2,000 Federal Emergency Management Agency workers in Louisiana not to wear FEMA-branded clothing in public because of threats against them. Six people were recently arrested in connection with the threats, officials said. “If you wear a FEMA shirt into the office, when you leave work have a change of clothing in your car so when you go into a restaurant you’re not wearing FEMA clothing,” a FEMA spokesman said. “FPS gave us guidelines, certainly not to make us worry, but to be more aware of our situation.”
New York: Subway searches upheld
A federal judge Friday upheld the New York police department’s practice of randomly searching subway riders’ bags, saying the intrusion on people’s privacy is minimal while the threat of a terrorist bombing is “real and substantial.” Police tightened security in the nation’s largest subway system in July after the deadly terrorist attacks in London’s underground. The U.S. District judge cited testimony that up to 50 percent of terrorist attacks were directed at transportation systems and said the searches were effective.
South Carolina: Killer executed
A man was put to death in Columbia on Friday for the 1994 murder of a store clerk. Shawn Humphries, 34, mouthed “I’m sorry” to his victim’s two sisters before fatal chemicals were pumped into his veins. One of the sister nodded in response. It appeared that a tear rolled down Humphries’ cheek after the exchange. Humphries was convicted for the shooting death of Mendal Alton “Dickie” Smith on New Year’s Day 1994. Prosecutors said Humphries and a friend decided to rob the Simpsonville store where Smith was working after they drank beer all day.
Michigan: New rules for juries
Judges in Michigan cannot use a person’s race, gender, religion or nationality to select jurors under a new rule approved by the Michigan Supreme Court. The order, approved on a 4-3 vote, was released Friday and takes effect Jan. 1. Under the order, discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin or sex when selecting a jury “is prohibited even in cases where the purpose would be to achieve balanced representation.”
Alabama: Bill backs Bible literacy
School boards in Alabama could offer courses in Bible literacy as an elective in public high schools under a new measure viewed by critics as an attempt to promote Christianity in classrooms. House Majority Leader Ken Guin, a Democrat, has pre-filed a bill that would authorize public school systems to offer the elective in grades nine through 12. The course would be based on the textbook “The Bible and Its Influence,” published in September by the Bible Literacy Project, a Fairfax, Va.-based nonprofit.
California: Lesbian may sue school
A federal judge ruled that a lesbian student can sue her school district and her principal for revealing her homosexuality to her mother. Charlene Nguon, 17, may go forward with her suit claiming violation of privacy rights, the U.S. District judge ruled in a decision dated Nov. 28 and announced Thursday by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. Orange County’s Garden Grove district had argued that Nguon openly kissed and hugged her girlfriend on campus and thus had no expectation of privacy.
Indiana: Egg-toss killer guilty
A jury in Indianapolis has convicted a man of murder for fatally shooting a 15-year-old boy who threw eggs at him. Donald Ware, 37, of Avon, faces 79 years in prison at his sentencing, scheduled for Dec. 15. Prosecutors portrayed Ware, who is white, as a racist motivated by more than anger when he fired a rifle toward the group of black youths throwing eggs at motorists in July. Ware also was convicted of battery in the shooting of a second teen, and two counts of criminal recklessness in connection with shots fired toward two teenagers who were not injured.