September 12 News

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A former biology professor who pulled a gun from her purse, shot and killed three colleagues during a faculty meeting at the University of Alabama in Huntsville two years ago will spend the rest of her life in prison. Forty-seven-year-old Amy Bishop pleaded guilty yesterday to one count of capital murder involving two or more people and three counts of attempted murder. Prosecutors agreed to a life without parole sentence and three life sentences for the attempted murder charges. She’ll be officially sentenced at a hearing later this month.

Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman is behind bars at a minimum security federal prison on southwest Louisiana. Siegelman turned himself in yesterday afternoon. He’d previously spent nine months at the prison before being released while his conviction on bribery and other charges was being appealed. The former Democratic governor continues to maintain his innocence. He released a lengthy statement shortly before arriving at the prison yesterday. In it he blamed his conviction on Republican operatives trying to block him from serving a second term as governor. Siegelman vowed to continue efforts to get President Barack Obama to commute his 78-month sentence.

Gadsden’s federal courthouse is being closed because of inadequate funding from Congress and the possibility of more drastic cuts that could threaten federal civil jury trials. The Gadsden Times reports the decision was announced yesterday in Washington. The Gadsden courthouse is one of six across the southeastern U.S. being shut down. The courthouse was built more than a century ago and features marble staircases and hand-crafted ceilings. It was originally the city’s main post office. Republican Congressman Robert Aderholt has an office in the courthouse and tells the Gadsden Times he was surprised by the decision, especially since the facility ranked 22nd on a list of 60 sites being considered for closure.

An immigrant group wants the Department of Homeland Security to stop the Secure Communities program in Alabama. The program has led to the deportation of illegal immigrants arrested for minor offenses. Officials with the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice say they’ve collected more than 10,000 petition signatures. They tried to present the petition to a Homeland Security ombudsman at a meeting in Birmingham last night, but the Birmingham News says the DHS officials refused to accept it. The group tells the Birmingham News it will mail the petition to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

Tests confirmed there is a link between oil from the massive BP spill and tar found on Alabama beaches after Hurricane Isaac. Auburn University researcher Joel Hayworth says a chemical analysis shows the tar balls collected after Isaac are associated with the type of oil spilled after the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion in 2010. BP is holding a media briefing in New Orleans to discuss its response after Isaac in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi. BP says in Louisiana it wants to dig deep into beaches and remove buried oil. But digging deep can bring its own problems. It can be harmful to creatures that live on beaches or feed on them and it also may lead to erosion by loosening up sand. Erosion is a constant worry in Louisiana because the state is losing land at an alarming rate.

Researchers are using new 3-D sonar imaging technology to capture the most complete picture yet of what remains of the only U.S. Navy ship sunk in combat the Gulf of Mexico during the Civil War. A government-led team of archaeologists and technicians scanned the wreckage of the USS Hatteras yesterday. The wreckage about 20 miles off the Galveston, Texas, coast has gone largely unnoticed since its discovery in the 1970s. Researchers hope to post the 3-D images of the wreck online by the 150th anniversary battle in which a Confederate raiding ship sunk the Hatteras. Unlike photos and video, sonar is immune to the poor seafloor visibility caused by currents kicking up sand and silt.

The Alabama Department of Mental Health say Searcy Hospital in Mount Vernon will close on October 31. Admissions to the south Alabama facility will cease next week. Department officials say the closing is part of a nationwide trend to provide community-based mental health treatment. State budget cuts have also contributed to the closures of mental hospitals in Alabama.

The state Public Service Commission is extending special Alabama Power electric rates intended to stimulate the state’s economy. The P-S-C voted unanimously yesterday to extend the one-year rate discounts for businesses that open in a building that has been vacant for at least six months. The incentive applies to new business or businesses that open an additional location. Sixty-six businesses have used the program so far. Eleven companies have been approved for another program that provides a two-year discount for large industries that expand or open new plants in Alabama.

The president of the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind says he’ll retire next year. Terry Graham has been at the state-sponsored school in Talladega for 35 years, serving as its president for the last decade. Trustees will conduct a search for a replacement.

The owner of a wholesale distribution company in Pelham will pay $1.7 million dollars after pleading guilty in a major tobacco tax case. Shamim Ahmed Khan entered the plea yesterday in Shelby County Circuit Court. He admitted not paying more than $806,000 in tobacco taxes. Khan is the president of Capital Wholesale and Distribution, which supplies convenience stores.