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Court won’t stop California execution

San Francisco The California Supreme Court refused Wednesday to halt the scheduled execution of convicted killer Stanley Tookie Williams, the Crips gang founder who became an anti-gang activist while in prison.

In a last-ditch legal move, defense attorneys petitioned the high court earlier this month, alleging shoddy forensic testing and other errors may have wrongly sent Williams to San Quentin State Prison, where he is scheduled die by injection Dec. 13.

The high court voted 4-2 without comment to deny the inmate’s petition. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger or a federal court could still intervene to spare the 51-year-old Williams.

Williams, condemned in 1981, has maintained his innocence. Williams was convicted of killing three people in a motel robbery and a 7-Eleven clerk in a separate incident.

Indiana House loses on Christian prayers

Indianapolis A federal judge on Wednesday barred the Indiana House from opening its sessions with specifically Christian prayers, ruling that such prayers amount to “an official endorsement of the Christian religion.”

Judge David Hamilton advised House Speaker Brian Bosma that invocations given in the Legislature should not use the name of Jesus Christ or Christian terms such as savior.

Hamilton said that practice “amounts in practical terms to an official endorsement of the Christian religion.”

Bosma called the ruling an “intolerable decision” that threatened free speech. He said he has directed his lawyers to study ways to overturn the decision.

The Indiana Civil Liberties Union challenged the prayer practices in a lawsuit on behalf of four people, including a Quaker lobbyist.

Schwarzenegger hires Democrat as top aide

Sacramento, Calif. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Wednesday took the first step to shaking up his administration after his resounding special election failure, appointing a longtime Democratic activist as his chief of staff.

The move to replace Patricia Clarey had been widely expected since voters defeated all four of the governor’s “year of reform” measures Nov. 8. Clarey was campaign manager for the effort.

But the announcement of state Public Utilities Commissioner Susan Kennedy as Clarey’s replacement caught many Republicans and Democrats off guard.

Kennedy, 45, was Cabinet secretary to former Gov. Gray Davis, who was ousted in the 2003 recall election that brought Schwarzenegger to power. She also is a former director of an abortion rights group and one of the highest-profile gays in state politics, making her appointment a risky one for the Republican governor.

Kennedy’s appointment could help regain the support of Democrats and independents the governor lost over the last year, but it also jeopardizes his standing among conservatives, his only reliable supporters.

“This makes Schwarzenegger a man without a country,” said GOP strategist Dave Gilliard, who helped run the campaign to recall Davis. “The Democrats will never accept him or embrace him, and now he’s breaking with his base. I don’t understand it.”


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