Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Hustler Magazine Request Prompts Ban Of Crime Pics

Georgia's open records law would ban the release of crime scene photos showing dismembered body parts or nude genitalia under legislation approved unanimously in the House.

The bill was prompted by Hustler Magazine's request for graphic crime photos of Meredeith Emerson, the hiker whose naked dismembered body was found in January 2008 in the north Georgia woods.

A judge has barred authorities from releasing the photos. House Speaker David Ralston called the porn magazine's request "vile."

State Rep. Jill Chambers, the bill's sponsor, said Tuesday that under the bill reporters could still view the photos but would be banned from copying them or removing them from law enforcement custody.

The bill passed during Sunshine Week, when news organizations promote open government.

It now heads to the Senate.

Lawmakers also took up the issue of administering drugs tests for those on unemployment: a bill that requires random drug tests for anyone getting unemployment benefits or welfare.

Representative Michael Harden said the drug test would cost no more than $25 and the test would be paid for by the person taking it, not the taxpayers. Harden said the state would cut off anyone who refuses the test or fails the test.

"They want to know at without a doubt that their tax dollars are not going to support illegal drug activity," Harden said.

"We have to make sure these people, particularly if they are on the unemployment line, have the ability to go back to work and one of the things that's preventing them from having that opportunity is the fact they can't get past the drug test," said state Rep. Jimmy Pruett.

The proposed bill has angered some people receiving unemployment.

"I think it's an invasion of privacy. It's an unnecessary burden on the people who are trying to find work," said George Lawson, who has been out of work for a year.

Sponsors of the bill said the bill is trying to help, not hurt.

"The government needs to be in a role of not enabling folks to have an addiction," said state Rep. Clay Cox.

Both the Georgia AFL-CIO Labor Union and the Georgia Drug Use prevention coalition have expressed opposition to the bill. The ACLU said the drug testing of welfare recipients may be unconstitutional.

The bill's sponsors said six other states have passed similar legislation.

A person against the bill said, "Working class people also stay strung out on drugs. I think it would be a waste of time and money. I don't see what benefit would come out of it. Half the industries that should be tested, are not. Let an employer test them if they so choose."

Georgia Man Jogging On Beach Hit, Killed By Plane

A 38-year-old father of two was jogging and listening to his iPod when he was hit from behind and killed by a small plane making an emergency landing on the beach, officials said Tuesday.

Robert Gary Jones, of Woodstock, Ga., was killed instantly on Hilton Head Island on Monday evening, said Beaufort County Coroner Ed Allen.

The single-engine plane had lost its propeller and the pilot's vision was blocked by oil on the windshield, Allen said. Jones was married and had two children, the coroner said.

Hilton Head fire and rescue spokeswoman Joheida Fister said the identities of the pilot and a passenger on the Experimental Lancair IV-P plane were not released. The two were not injured. The plane started leaking oil at about 13,000 feet and tried originally to make it to Hilton Head Airport, Fister said.

The oil on the windshield blocked the pilot's vision and he told authorities the propeller came off the plane. When he tried to land on the beach near the Hilton Head Marriott Resort and Spa, the plane hit the jogger and came to rest a little farther down the beach, she said.

FAA records show the aircraft was registered to Edward I. Smith of Chesapeake, Va., with a certificate issued in 2004. The plane left Orlando at 4:45 p.m. and was headed for Virginia, Fister said. The four-seater plane has a turbine engine, can be built from a kit and can fly up to 370 mph, according to the Lancair Web site. The IV-P model has a pressurized cabin.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board were investigating, Fister said.

Woman: Male Friend Deliberately Set House Fire

A fire that destroyed a house in northwest Atlanta Tuesday may have been deliberately set, investigators said. A woman told WSB-TV that she was arguing with a male friend, stepped outside to cool off and noticed flames coming from the house seconds later.

"We're investigating per witness statement that it's a possible arson case," said Battalion Chief Kevin Roberts with the Atlanta Fire Department.

The house on Fairfield Place caught fire shortly after 12 a.m. Investigators sifted through the charred rubble looking for any evidence of what was used to ignite the fire. The homeowner believes her dog was trapped inside the house and died in the fire.

Car Strikes Tree, Killing Redan High Student

A Redan High School student was killed in a car crash Tuesday morning, DeKalb police said.

Investigators told WSB-TV that the student was driving on King Road at a high rate of speed when the student swerved to avoid other car. Police said the student sideswiped a car turning onto King Road from Fox Valley Road and crashed into a tree. The student died at the scene.

Investigators said the student had two other passengers who are also said to be students. One passenger was taken to Grady Hospital in critical condition, while the second passenger walked away.

Police said the students were wearing seat belts and that the airbags deployed. A preliminary investigation indicates that the driver of the vehicle turning from Fox Valley Road could not see while turning left because of sun in his eyes. Police haven't said whether charges would be filed.

Driver Dies After Pothole Rock Hits Windshield

Authorities said a South Carolina woman initially left in critical condition after she was struck by a rock that flew through her windshield when a pickup truck hit a pothole along Interstate 20 near the Alabama-Georgia line Monday has died.

A UAB Hospital spokesman said 33-year-old Jo Maureen Fisher, of Goose Creek, S.C., died Tuesday morning.

Alabama State Troopers said 35-year-old John Fisher was driving east in Cleburne County, four miles west of the state line. Authorities said that's when a pickup truck traveling in front of the couple hit the pothole, knocking the rock through Fisher's car.

Troy Goodman, a UAB Hospital spokesman, says the family wanted people to know that Fisher was an organ donor.

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