Regional News: BP Oil Spill Trial; Convicted Killers Recaptured; School Bus Driver Arrested; Sewage Spilled

By: ap
By: ap

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Two weeks of courtroom debate have come to an end over how much oil spewed into the Gulf of Mexico after BP PLC's 2010 rig disaster.
Friday's testimony wrapped up the second phase of a trial over the Deepwater Horizon explosion that killed 11 workers.
Government experts estimate 176 million gallons spilled into the Gulf. BP attorneys have urged U.S. District Judge Barbier set the figure at nearly 103 million gallons.
The amount would be used to calculate any Clean Water Act penalties that BP would have to pay.
Using government figures, a maximum penalty if the company is found grossly negligent could total $18 billion. The company's figures would cut that maximum to around $10.5 billion.
U.S District Judge Carl Barbier did not say when he will rule.

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- Alabama legislators who have been studying state election laws say there's a problem: Candidates for state offices have to report their contributions and expenditures, but little is being done to make sure the reports are filed accurately. Members of the Legislature's Interim Study Committee on Campaign Finance Reform say the solution could be to create a small state agency similar to the Federal Elections Commission.

HARTSELLE, Ala. (AP) -- A funeral is planned Wednesday for a volunteer firefighter who died while responding to a fire in Morgan County. Officials said volunteer firefighter Jantzen Murrell Frazier saw a fire at his neighbor's home on Thursday, drove about a mile to the Ogden Ridge Fire Department to get a fire truck, and then wrecked while returning to the blaze.

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- With two convicted killers back in custody, authorities say they are seeking to find out who made the phony court documents that led to their mistaken release and rocked Florida's judicial system.
Joseph Jenkins and Charles Walker, both 34, were captured Saturday night without incident in Panama City Beach. Authorities say they were taken into custody about 6:40 p.m. at the Coconut Grove Motor Inn without incident. Hours earlier, their families had held a news conference, urging them to surrender. The men were mistakenly released within the last month.
Jenkins was found guilty of first-degree murder in the 1998 killing and botched robbery of Roscoe Pugh, an Orlando man. It was Pugh's family that contacted the prosecutor's office earlier this week and told them Jenkins had been released, setting off a manhunt.
The prosecutor's office also discovered Walker had been mistakenly released. Walker was convicted of second-degree murder in the 1999 Orange County slaying of 23-year-old Cedric Slater.
"Now that we have them in custody, we're hoping to get something from the interviews with them," Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey said.
Jenkins and Walker were both serving life sentences at a Florida correctional facility before they walked free without anyone realizing the paperwork, complete with a judge's forged signature, was bogus. The documents seemingly reduced their life sentences to 15 years.

NAPLES, Fla. (AP) -- A 57-year-old southwest Florida school bus driver has been charged with child neglect after a child was choked unconscious by another child on the bus she was driving.
Collier County Sheriff's officials said Irena Fulton didn't try to help the victim during the attack and never stopped the bus on Tuesday.
A sheriff's report said the unprovoked suspect put the male student in a choke hold and choked him unconscious. Another student helped the child off the bus and onto the sidewalk. Deputies said Fulton didn't call 911 and the bus depot staff didn't hear about incident until the school called the next day.
The student was charged with felony battery on Thursday. Fulton was arrested the next day. The Associated Press is not naming the students because they are minors

PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) -- A break in a sewer line caused about 300 gallons of raw sewage to overflow onto a Panhandle intersection.
The Pensacola News Journal reports utility crews responded Friday and diverted about 12,000 gallons of sewage for disposal and treatment.
The Emerald Coast Utility Authority said a private contractor broke the line while working on a road project.
The utility said the area where the sewage was spilled has been disinfected and state and county health and environmental officials were notified.

BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) -- A detective has testified that he believes a man charged with killing eight people inside a mobile home near Brunswick was trying to get drugs and money.
Lt. William Daras made the comment Saturday when the defense attorney for Guy Heinze Jr. asked him about a motive.
Defense attorney Newell Hamilton Jr. contends Heinze is a victim of shoddy police work and a rush to focus on him as the lone suspect. Heinze could get the death penalty if convicted of the 2009 slayings.
Daras testified that he didn't initially think Heinze was involved in the killings, but the evidence started adding up.
He told the court, "Let me be clear: I believe that Mr. Heinze killed these people."
The trial judge does not plan to hear testimony Sunday.

Child Deaths
Newspaper: Failures by GA agency led to deaths
ATLANTA (AP) -- An Atlanta newspaper reports that epic failures by Georgia's child welfare system have given the state one of the nation's highest rates of death by abuse and neglect.
The Journal-Constitution reports that dozens of Georgia children die from maltreatment each year despite intervention by the state's child protection agency.
The newspaper examined 2,230 child deaths reported statewide between January 2011 and July 2013. It said 10 deaths occurred in fires after parents left children home alone. Eleven resulted from what was termed accidental drug and alcohol ingestion, but the newspaper reported the findings often seemed incongruous to the ages of the victims. In one case the victim was 33 days old.

Less water use in Atlanta but no clear reason why
ATLANTA (AP) -- Georgia's leaders say that conservation rules are reducing water use in metro Atlanta as they fight with Florida over water rights, but it's not entirely clear why consumption has dropped.
Florida has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to decide how much water Georgia can take from the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers. Florida officials say that metro Atlanta uses too much, leaving too little downstream and killing off Florida's oyster fishery.
Several measures do show that water consumption has fallen in the Atlanta region: A 2011 study showed that per-person consumption fell from 149 gallons per day in 2000 to 102 gallons in 2009.
But experts note that economic downturns, weather patterns and droughts -- as well as conservation rules -- can affect water consumption.


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