An old man whose car hurtled through a farmers market, killing 10 people and injuring more than 70, was convicted Friday of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence – the harshest verdict possible.
George Russell Weller, 89 and in poor health, could spend the rest of his life in prison for the 2003 crash, which set off a national debate over whether elderly people should be barred from driving or required to pass additional tests when renewing their licenses.
He faces a maximum of 18 years in prison, but the judge also could sentence him to probation. Prosecutors declined to say what penalty they would request.
His attorneys argued that he mistakenly stepped on the gas pedal instead of the brake and panicked when the vehicle raced into the open-air market. But prosecutors said he was careless to the point of criminal negligence and lacked remorse.
Arizona voters must show ID
The Supreme Court ruled Friday that Arizona may require voters to provide photo IDs when they cast their ballots next month.
The justices cautioned that they were not issuing a ruling on the constitutionality of Arizona’s law. “As we have noted, the facts in these cases are hotly contested,” the court said in an unsigned five-page order.
The ruling merely allows the Nov. 7 election to proceed with the photo ID law in place. Federal courts still will have to resolve a lawsuit contending that the law will disenfranchise numerous voters, particularly the elderly and minorities.
Courts in Georgia and Missouri have blocked similar laws.
New search for remains at WTC
The city said Friday that it will search parts of the World Trade Center site again for remains of the Sept. 11 dead after several bones were pulled out of an abandoned manhole – a discovery that stirred up new fury and disbelief among victims’ families.
The family members demanded that construction stop at ground zero until remains of all their loved ones are recovered. They also called for state and federal investigations into the failure to completely remove remains from ground zero.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg called an emergency meeting at City Hall that included police, fire officials and the city medical examiner after the discovery of bones Thursday in a manhole in the 16-acre site. Remains as big as arm or leg bones were found, along with personal effects including at least one wallet, officials said.