News Briefs

February 22, 1996
Web posted at: 12:30 a.m. EST

Brain-damaged officer starts talking -- again.

CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee (CNN) -- Gary Dockery, a former Chattanooga police officer who spoke for the first time last week after being in a coma-like state for more than seven years, was breathing better and even spoke a few words Wednesday.


Dockery, who was hospitalized and underwent surgery for pneumonia-like symptoms last week, remained in stable condition, according to a statement issued by Parkridge Medical Center.

He had been taken from a nursing home to the hospital because of breathing problems. After speaking for two days last week, he fell silent again before undergoing surgery.

Dockery gave his first and last name Wednesday morning when prompted by a nurse, according to Dr. James Folkening. He also responded when asked what time it was, Folkening said.

Dockery was shot in the head in 1988 while answering a bogus emergency call.

School board bans gay club -- and all others

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (CNN) -- The Board of Education in Salt Lake City, Utah, has voted to ban all extracurricular clubs from the city's three public high schools. The decision was prompted after some gay students proposed forming a club.

The idea for a gay students club had triggered off a heated debate in the city, with opponents of a gay-straight student alliance calling it "immoral."

The American Civil Liberties Union described the board's decision to ban all extracurricular clubs as an outrage. The executive director of the ACLU in Salt Lake City, Carol Gnade, said she thought this was the first time ever a school board had taken such action and compared it to segregation.

The ruling, which take effect this fall, won't apply to academic clubs or interscholastic team sports.

Prosecutors: Menendez brothers made up stories of abuse

Menendez brothers

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Closing arguments continued Wednesday in the Menendez re-trial, with a prosecutor portraying Lyle and Erik Menendez as greedy brothers who made up stories of abuse in an effort to get away with murder.

Defense attorneys moved for a mistrial Wednesday, but it was immediately denied.

The brothers are charged with killing their wealthy parents in 1989. Their first trial, which was heard by two juries, ended in a deadlock.

Group calls domestic violence an 'epidemic'

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Domestic violence has reached "epidemic" proportions, according to members of a the American Psychological Association.

Members spoke Wednesday as a presidential task force unveiled recommendations for intervention programs in schools, churches, and hospitals.

In Washington, President Clinton announced a new national hotline to help victims of domestic abuse.

The computerized hotline was established with a $1 million grant from the Health and Human Services Department and will be manned by counselors who can provide crisis assistance or connect callers to police or shelters.

The toll-free number is 1-800-799-SAFE. The hotline took more than 60 calls in the first few hours after it began Wednesday morning.

Two die when freight train derails in the Rockies

Train derailment

LEADVILLE, Colorado (CNN) -- Two crew members died when a freight train jumped the tracks Wednesday in the Rockies. Damaged acid containers aboard the train spilled their corrosive contents onto U.S. 24, forcing the highway to close.

Nearby Interstate 70 was already closed because of an avalanche.

The cause of the derailment was under investigation.

Rain pounds southern California


LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- As southern California recuperates from Tuesday rainstorms that caused flooding and deadly traffic accidents, the area braces for more wet weather.

Up to 4 more inches of rain are forecast for Wednesday.

Tuesday's storm was the first major downpour to hit southern California this year. Flash flood watches were issued along a 250-mile stretch from San Luis Obispo to San Diego, as the storm dumped more than 2 inches on the region.

The rain led to hundreds of traffic accidents, including a pileup on Golden State Freeway. In Long Beach, a woman standing at a bus stop was struck and killed by a car that skidded out of control. And another man died when his car spun out on the Costa Mesa Freeway.

Flooding in La Habra led officials to evacuate several houses and apartment complexes.

Police say father killed two-year-old son

NEW YORK (CNN) -- After unsuccessfully trying to potty train his two-year-old son, a father lost patience and beat the child to death, police officials said Tuesday.

Anthony Mikell, 43, was charged with murder after telling detectives "he lost patience with the kid and he did bang the kid around," Capt. John Dillon said.

The boy, Kevin Mikell, was found bruised and unresponsive in his family's apartment Tuesday. His shoulder was dislocated and cigarette burns dotted his body, Dillon said. Authorities said they believed the boy already was dead when police arrived.

The New York Times quoted sources as saying that the father forced the boy to stay on the toilet for more than 12 hours, alternately hitting him around and feeding him.

The child had been under the care of the city's child protection agency but was returned to his parents within the past year, the paper said.

California execution scheduled for Friday

SACRAMENTO, California -- A man convicted of killing 14 boys moved one step closer to his execution, after authorities rejected three stay requests in one day.

William Bonin is to die by lethal injection on Friday.

Gov. Pete Wilson refused Tuesday to grant clemency. A few hours later, federal judges in Los Angeles and San Francisco also rejected requests to block the execution.

Bonin has been on death row for 14 years for the murders in southern California in 1979 and 1980. His victims were boys, ranging in age from 12 to 19. They were sodomized, strangled or knifed, and dumped nude along freeways.

"Bonin's guilt is beyond dispute," Wilson said after denying the reprieve. "For certain crimes, justice demands the ultimate punishment. Bonin's premeditated shockingly brutal murders of these 14 boys are such crimes."

If the execution proceeds as planned, it would be the state's third execution in the past 30 years. The last execution in California occurred in August 1993.



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