Posted: Sunday, February 02, 2003

Proposal introduced to shorten sessions

JUNEAU - A proposal to shorten legislative sessions was introduced Friday in the Senate.

Sen. Gretchen Guess, an Anchorage Democrat, is sponsoring a measure that would amend the constitution to limit legislative sessions to 90 days. Currently the Legislature must complete its business in 120 days.

If two-thirds of the Legislature votes in favor of the proposal, it would go before voters in the next general election.

Hearings have not been scheduled on it.

Measure would prevent governor from filling Senate vacancy

JUNEAU - Democrats want Alaska's next vacancy in the U.S. Senate to be filled by the voters instead of the governor.

A bill introduced Friday would change the law that allows a governor to appoint a replacement if a U.S. senator leaves office with less than 30 months left in his term. It is co-sponsored by every Democrat in the state Senate.

The bill calls for a special election to be held within 90 days of a U.S. senate vacancy occurring.

An identical bill was introduced in the House last week by Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz, an Anchorage Democrat.

The current law allowed Republican Gov. Frank Murkowski to name his replacement when he resigned from the U.S. Senate last year after winning the governor's race. Murkowski chose his daughter, former state Rep. Lisa Murkowski, an Anchorage Republican, to replace him.

The appointment angered some Alaskans, who argued it amounted to nepotism.

Sen. Johnny Ellis, an Anchorage Democrat, said the bill is not directed personally at Lisa Murkowski, but is a response to public frustration about the law that allowed Murkowski to pick his daughter.

Conviction of Bethel teen overturned

ANCHORAGE - The state Court of Appeals on Friday overturned the conviction of a Bethel teen found guilty of second-degree murder for urging Evan Ramsey to take a shotgun to school in Bethel and open fire in 1997.

The issue was whether the boy, then 15, should have been judged by the standards of an adult or a juvenile.

Superior Court Judge Mark I. Wood told jurors in the case they should measure the boy's conduct against what would be expected of a reasonable adult. The boy's lawyer argued that he should have been judged against the behavior of a reasonable juvenile instead.

Prosecutors have not decided whether to seek further appellate review of the decision, said Nancy Simel of the state's office of special prosecutions. After that is out of the way, the office will consider whether to seek a retrial, she said.

After a lengthy trial in juvenile court, the jury convicted the teen, referred to as J.R., of two counts of second-degree murder, based on the theory that he had shown an extreme indifference to the value of human life. Prosecutors produced evidence that J.R. had taught Ramsey how to fire the shotgun Ramsey used to kill a student and principal at Bethel High School. The youth also urged Ramsey to carry out his plan to kill the pair, according to the information in the opinion.

Brady appointed to permafund board

JUNEAU - Carl Brady Jr. was appointed to the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. board of trustees on Friday.

Brady served on the board from 1990-94, in the administration of Gov. Walter J. Hickel, and was chairman in 1991 and 1992.

Murkowski announced the appointment at a press conference in Anchorage. The governor did not take questions from reporters via teleconference after the announcement. An aide said there were technical problems with the telephone connection.

Unalaska pet owners decry shootings

ANCHORAGE - A group of pet owners wants Unalaska officials to devise a more humane way of killing animals than shooting them.

The group, which informally calls itself Friends of Pets, asked the Unalaska City Council last week to make euthanasia available for sick or injured pets. An itinerant veterinarian makes only quarterly visits to the island community. Currently, a police officer takes an animal to the landfill and shoots it.

Third Mateu murder trial starts Monday

KETCHIKAN - The third murder trial of 19-year-old Jose "Che" Mateu is scheduled to begin Monday in Ketchikan.

Mateu is charged with first-degree murder in the January 2000 shooting death of his father, Jose R. Mateu. Jose R. Mateu was shot in his home on the night of Jan. 13, 2000. His body was discovered by an Alaska State Trooper the next day. Che Mateu, who was 16 at the time, was charged with the crime nine months later. He has maintained his innocence.

He was tried twice before. The first two trials were in Ketchikan and resulted in hung juries, one at 9-3 to acquit and the other at 7-5 to convict.

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