Alaska Digest

Posted: Tuesday, July 20, 2004

State works on unified sentencing policy

FAIRBANKS - Alaska's prosecutors and defenders are coming to terms with a U.S. Supreme Court decision that says only a jury, not a judge, can sentence someone to more time than is indicated in sentencing guidelines.

The ruling effectively invalidates the system of "aggravators" used in Alaska's felony cases, through which judges can extend the sentences of felons after they've been convicted by a jury.

"There are many layers to how this ruling affects our cases, and the different status of the cases," said state Deputy Attorney General Susan Parkes.

The country's highest court made the ruling June 24.

Judges in Alaska's state courts, as well as in many other states and on the federal level, can impose both aggravators to lengthen a sentence and mitigators to shorten it, after a jury trial based on the facts of a case.

The state currently has 30 potential aggravators on the books and 17 mitigators. But the Supreme Court decision, which the court handed down over a kidnapping case in Washington state, seems to dictate that aggravators can only be imposed by a jury.

Panel approves military construction spending

FAIRBANKS - A Senate committee approved a military construction spending bill that would funnel about $346 million to Alaska.

The amount approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee is about $40 million less than what was contained in the same bill last year.

A House version of the legislation, completed earlier this month, has no "earmarks" for Alaska-specific projects, but the Senate version released Thursday has details about proposed spending in the state.

The military construction bill pays for much, but not all, of the annual construction work completed by the armed forces.

Both the House and Senate bills would spend about $10 billion worldwide in fiscal year 2005, which starts Oct. 1.

Metcalfe predicts gains for Dems in election

ANCHORAGE - The newly elected chairman of Alaska's Democratic Party says he believes the state's voters are moving back to the middle after a Republican surge that he says peaked in 2002.

Jake Metcalfe, who was elected party chairman at the state convention in May, predicted state Democrats will pick up seats in the Senate and the House this year, and in two years may have a majority in one of the houses.

"We're seeing a swing back to the middle," he said.

Metcalfe, a former president of the Anchorage School Board who was re-elected to that post in April, will replace the current party chairman, Scott Sterling, in February.

Republicans say their party remains strong. Party chairman Randy Ruedrich said the number of registered Republicans has increased 10 percent since the 2000 elections and stands at 45,150.

"That clearly indicates that we are still growing and that our candidates should do extremely well," he said.

Hospital: Patients who got recalled stents are OK

ANCHORAGE - Providence Alaska Medical Center has used 285 coronary stents now being recalled nationwide, but hospital officials say none of the 140 patients receiving the stents is in any danger.

"The problem with the stent system occurred at the time of insertion, not afterward," said Pat Lara, assistant administrator at Providence, in a statement. "So, the recall does not affect patients who have already received these stents."

Providence is no longer using the recalled stents, hospital officials said.

Boston Scientific on Friday issued a recall of its recently approved drug-coated coronary stent, as well as a recall of another stent, due to a dangerous defect.

A defect in the device used to surgically implant some stents can prevent a tiny balloon from deflating after it is used to expand the stent, a metal-mesh tube inserted into coronary arteries to clear blockages. The problem has caused deaths and serious injuries to cardiac patients.

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