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NATIONAL BRIEFS


MICHIGAN: Murder of abortion foe

A jury convicted a trucker of first-degree murder Thursday in the shootings of an abortion protester and a businessman, rejecting claims that the gunman could not be held criminally responsible because he was mentally ill. The verdict came in Shiawassee County court, 90 miles northwest of Detroit. Harlan Drake, 34, faces life in prison without parole. Lawyer Robert Ashley conceded that his client killed James Pouillon, 63, and Mike Fuoss, 61. Drake told jurors he was dangerous and deserved to die for his actions.


ALASKA: Animals blamed in death

An autopsy has concluded that a teacher was killed by animals, and state troopers say wolves are the likely suspect. DNA tests might determine whether wolves are responsible for the death of Candice Berner, 32, who had been teaching in Alaska only since August and was from Slippery Rock, Pa. Her body, dragged off the road to the village's lagoon, was surrounded by wolf tracks when found Monday a mile outside Chignik Lake on the Alaska Peninsula, 474 miles southwest of Anchorage.


PENNSYLVANIA: $95M award against nurse

A jury in Allentown awarded $95 million in damages Thursday to the families of eight people said to be among patients murdered by a nurse considered one of the most prolific killers the U.S. health care industry has ever seen. Nurse Charles Cullen, 50, is already serving a life sentence in New Jersey after admitting he killed 29 people there and in Pennsylvania. The damages will allow the families to collect if Cullen ever sells his story for a book or movie, said plaintiffs' attorney Mark Altemose.


CALIFORNIA: Use of 'God' defended

A federal appeals court in San Francisco upheld the use of the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance and "In God We Trust" on U.S. currency, rejecting arguments Thursday that the phrases violate the separation of church and state. Legal challenges by Sacramento atheist Michael Newdow were rejected.

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