Review Category : National News

Jodi Arias Trial Hit With Another Juror Issue

ABC News(NEW YORK) — The Jodi Arias trial ended early on Thursday because of a “juror issue,” the latest incident in the four-day-old trial involving jurors.

The jury is not expected to return to court until Monday. The court did not make clear what the issue was.

But so far, the panel has already lost two alternates.

The judge ordered a group of 19 jurors to sit through what is expected to be a two-month trial that will determine whether Arias should be condemned to death for the 2008 murder of her boyfriend Travis Alexander. Arias, 34, was convicted last year of killing Alexander with a gunshot, 27 stab wounds and by slitting his throat. But the jury was split on whether Arias should be executed, requiring a second jury for the sentencing phase of the trial.

The plan to have seven alternate jurors for the sentencing phase was whittled to six on the first day when one juror didn’t show up because of a family emergency.

On Wednesday, a second juror was dismissed because of improper contact with a member of the media that the juror mistook for ABC News legal analyst Nancy Grace, and for not wearing her juror badge.

If a third juror gets booted, the trial will be left with four alternates as the lengthy trial is just beginning.

The trial promises to be an ordeal with lots of grisly testimony and photos about the wounds, as well as raunchy photos, texts and phone message between Arias and Alexander. On the first day of the trial prosecutor Juan Martinez showed the jury a photo of Alexander’s gaping neck wound.

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Nebraska High School OKs Guns In Senior Portraits

iStock/Thinkstock(BROKEN BOW, Neb.) — A Nebraska school district changed its policy to allow seniors to pose with guns for their yearbook photos, and the school’s superintendent says he’s just catching up with the rest of the Midwest.

Students can pose with any type of prop, from rifles to basketballs, as long as what they’re wearing meets the school’s dress code and the photo is “tasteful and appropriate,” according to the new policy introduced this week.

“We are a very rural community right in the center of Nebraska where hunting and other shooting sports are very popular,” Broken Bow Public Schools Superintendent Mark Sievering said. “We have something that is known as the One Box Pheasant Hunt that is a hunt attended by people all over the nation.”

While hunting is huge, the city of Broken Bow is small. In fact, the district only has one high school, so the new policy doesn’t affect many students.

“We’re a town of about 3,500 people,” Sievering said. “On any given year, we might have 60 to 70 seniors. We’re not talking about hundreds of kids or several schools in a district.”

Still, when news of the new rule broke in the Omaha World-Herald, Sievering said he got calls from people across the nation who pictured “a fourth-grader coming into school and having their picture taken with a gun.”

“That is not what this is about,” he said, adding that students take the senior photos off campus. Sievering said he realizes that it could be easy for people who live in other parts of the country, where yearbook photos are taken at school, to “misconstrue” his policy.

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There was never a ban on weapons in senior photos at Broken Bow High School, but the district generally didn’t allow it, the superintendent said. Last year when a yearbook adviser asked about the policy, Sievering realized there wasn’t one, and he and the school board decided hunting was an important hobby to many students, and should be represented in the yearbook if students choose.

“I’m confident that students across the country are already taking photos like this. This is not a new thing,” he said.

Photographer Brian Baer said he takes yearbook photos for students throughout the state of Nebraska, including in Broken Bow, and has never heard of anyone banning weapons in photos.

“I’ve been in business for 20 years doing senior portraits, and this is the first time it’s been called to attention,” he said. “And I think it was addressed because of some sensitivity of school shootings that are becoming more common across the country, unfortunately.”

“When we do senior portraits, we ask our students to consider an activity that they’re interested in, that they’re passionate about,” Baer added. “Sometimes it’s dancing, sometimes it’s basketball, sometimes hunting is the activity they’re interested in.”

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Putting New Football Helmets to the Test: What’s Safest?

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Preventing concussions has become a top priority for elite players and anyone with a child sporting a football jersey, and new technology and research is racing to try to make the game safer for all.

Virginia Tech University, which has tracked more than 300,000 impacts on its football team, is the epicenter for research into safer helmets. Their method uses a simple but critical test: lifting a football helmet rimmed with sensors six feet into the air, then dropping it onto a rubber-coated concrete and steel block.

The test mimics what players can face on the field, researchers told ABC News. Then a one- to five-star safety rating is assigned for each helmet tested. Helmets with more stars provide a reduction in concussion risk compared to helmets with fewer stars.

“If you don’t make a five-star helmet, a lot of times you can’t even bid on the sale of helmets. If a school puts out a call for proposals, it’ll say we are only taking bids for 5-star Virginia Tech rated helmets,” Stefan Duma, the director of the School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences at Virginia Tech, told ABC News. “I think if you are a manufacturer, you can’t be in the business unless you are making 5-star helmets.”

ABC News got an exclusive look inside the Virginia Tech lab, where engineers are doing something not unlike crash testing for automobiles.

“When you go buy a car it’s very clear this is a 4-star car, it’s a 5-star car. A lot of work goes into that. We basically wanted to develop a system analogous for helmets,” Duma said. “So when you go buy a helmet you can look at our website and see an independent way to see which perform better than others.”

Researchers took ABC News into the lab as they tested three new helmets on the market, each boasting new technologies — two from manufacturer SG and one from Riddell. The SG helmets are lighter, weighing half as much as other helmets.

“The interesting thing about this helmet,” Duma said in reference to the Simpson or SG helmet, “is that the shell is carbon fiber or Kevlar, so it’s super light and they use a different padding on the inside.”

And one from Riddell — the Speed Flex helmet, just released this fall.

“For the first time you’ve got a company making a non-ridged shell so you see this part right here, it actually deforms, that’s very unusual,” Duma said.

“You can push on that and see how easy it bends in,” Duma explained, noting that the flexibility is expected to be an additional safety feature. “That’s their claim.”

After two straight days of testing, all three helmets tested received a 5-star rating. The helmets they are testing are for kids 14 years and older.

Virginia Tech found Riddell’s new flex design reduced head acceleration better than any helmet they’ve tested.

Click here for a full list of their tested helmets and ratings.

The 5-star rating for both SG helmets came with two significant points: cracking was found in the helmet padding, or liner, in both helmets tested.

SG told ABC News: “The helmets are safe to use through the season” even with some cracking of the liner. “Annual reconditioning of helmets includes replacing liners,” a cost SG estimates around $16 per foam liner.

Virginia Tech also noted that SG indicates their helmets have a two-year lifespan — much shorter than the 10-year lifespan most other helmet companies claim. The company offers the possibility of re-certifying the helmet after two years.

Regarding the two-year lifespan, SG said “the helmets are new technology…and they haven’t been available long enough to know if they will last beyond two years.”

Virginia Tech researchers said they hope the work done inside the lab to rate and improve helmets will make football a safer sport.

“We want parents to learn that getting out of the old helmets, getting into the new better helmets, that’s gonna reduce [your kid's] risk,” Duma said.

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Toddler Slams SUV into Virginia Automotive Shop

iStock/Thinkstock(CHESTERFIELD, Va.) — A 2-year-old girl in Virginia escaped with no injuries after she put her mother’s car in neutral, cruised through four lanes of traffic and crashed the car head-on into an automotive shop.

“I was just sitting behind my desk and all of a sudden heard a tremendous boom and jumped up to check and an SUV had hit the wall of the building,” Tony Price, the manager of Adam’s Automotive, told ABC News Thursday.

The crash happened around 1 p.m. Wednesday after the toddler’s mother, who was not identified, went in to pay at a gas station across the road from the auto shop.

“As soon as I looked out the window, the mom was at the vehicle and was scooping the daughter out,” Price said.

The road that the toddler crossed in her mom’s Ford Expedition includes four lanes of traffic that, miraculously, did not have any traffic at that time.

“Nobody hit it. No one had to avoid it. It was amazing,” said Price.

The mother told police officers and Price that her daughter managed to get out of her car seat and put the car in neutral, which then caused the Expedition to drift across the usually busy road.

No charges were filed in the incident according to both Price and local ABC News affiliate WRIC.

Calls placed to the Chesterfield Police Department by ABC News were not returned as of this writing.

The toddler emerged from the crash with only a slight bruise on her face, according to Price.

His business, however, received what he described as “extensive damage.”

“We’re getting estimates on it today,” Price said.

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Polo Mogul Blames Faulty Brakes for Fatal Crash

iStock/Thinkstock(WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.) — Polo mogul John Goodman took the stand in his own defense Wednesday, blaming faulty brakes — and not alcohol — for a fatal 2010 crash.

Goodman, the owner of the International Polo Club Palm Beach, insisted that the brakes on his $200,000 Bentley weren’t working properly, causing the car to slam into a Hyundai driven by Scott Wilson, 23. The crash sent the Hyundai into a canal, where Wilson drowned.

“I went to grab my gear shift, and that’s the last thing I remember,” Goodman said.

Goodman testified that he was on his way to the fast-food restaurant Wendy’s to buy a Frosty frozen dessert when the accident happened.

“The first thing I remember after that was, I was seeing white everywhere,” Goodman said.

“Stars?” his attorney asked.

“Yes, and not really knowing where I was,” Goodman said.

Prosecutors have claimed that Goodman was drunk at the time of the accident after working up a $272 tab partying at The Players Club in Wellington, Florida, later registering a blood-alcohol level of 0.177, more than twice the legal limit to drive.

Goodman admitted ordering 18 drinks at the club — but he said he only had three of those drinks.

The rest were for others, he said.

He also claimed he didn’t get drunk until after the crash, when he left the scene and stumbled upon a friend’s home, where, he said, he drank heavily.

“I drank it out of the bottle,” he said.

Goodman’s defense also called Dr. David Delonga, a medical specialist, to testify that Goodman was disoriented — not because of the amount he had to drink, but because the crash likely gave him a concussion.

“That would have been consistent in the range of a mild traumatic brain injury, or concussion, to put it in layman’s terms,” Delonga told the court.

This is the second trial for the multimillionaire, who was convicted in 2012 for Wilson’s death and sentenced to 16 years behind bars. But that verdict was thrown out because of juror misconduct.

Goodman has pleaded not guilty.

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World Series Wish Comes True for 6-Year-Old Cancer Patient

Rob Carr/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — A six-year-old Kansas boy who suffers from a painful tumor on his spine was in the stands when the Kansas City Royals threw their first pitch in a World Series game since 1985.

On Tuesday, cancer was the last thing on young Noah Wilson’s mind.

“It was amazing,” his dad Scott Wilson told ABC News on Wednesday. “We walked away with a loss but the energy in that place was phenomenal.”

Wilson, his wife and their two sons, including Noah, were at the game thanks to a neighbor who launched a campaign last week to send Noah, a lifelong Royals fan who has a rare bone cancer called Ewing sarcoma, to see the team play in the World Series. They have tickets to Wednesday night’s game, too.

“Noah had a blast last night and he got home and was still excited,” Wilson said. “He fell asleep pretty quick because it was a late night, and he got up this morning already wearing his Royals hat and ready to go.”

Their neighbor Ryan Zimmerman set up a GoFundMe page last week, and supporters raised more than $11,000 to send the cancer patient to Wednesday night’s game. MLB and StubHub ended up donating tickets, and Zimmerman said the money raised would be used instead to pay off Noah’s hospital bills.

But the Wilsons had a better idea.

“Noah is one of many kids battling cancer. We’ve always felt kinda weird about this whole thing, so many families are deserving of this,” he said. “So we took the money and we bought 16 tickets on StubHub for the game, plus the [extra] tickets donated and gave them to other families going through cancer, that we’ve met at the hospital or through friends.”

“There’s no better way to spend it, in our opinion,” he said.

On Monday, when Wilson went to pick up the tickets for Wednesday’s game, an MLB employee who had heard about the campaign offered up her tickets so the family could also attend Game 1 Tuesday night.

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Wife Discovers Trove of Letters From Husband After His Death

iStock/Thinkstock(LONGVIEW, Texas) — Even after his death, Mitchell Whisenhunt has found a way to surprise and bring comfort to his wife and young daughter, with a trove of letters he designated to be opened on certain dates.

Whisenhunt, who would have turned 27 next week, lost his battle with Marfan syndrome last Saturday. The rare genetic disorder affects the body’s connective tissue, which is used to hold together organs, cells and tissue.

Ashley Whisenhunt, 22, cared for her husband until his death, but said she was astonished when she discovered the 30 letters he left for her and their 18-month-old daughter, Brynleigh.

The little girl will grow up with a letter every year from her second to 18th birthday from a man she didn’t get to spend much time with but who left no doubt that he loved her unconditionally.

“Through his testimony, there is so much she is going to learn,” Whisenhunt told ABC News.

One letter was also addressed to their Longview, Texas, community, thanking them for their support.

“It just blows my mind,” Whisenhunt said of her husband’s secret gesture. “He thought about everybody else instead of himself.”

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Whisenhunt said she would respect her husband’s wishes and open each letter as he planned. However, there was one special surprise left for her that she said hit her the hardest.

In a spiral notebook that Whisenhunt used before she dropped out of college to care for her husband, he wrote a letter to her asking that she publish a book of poetry he had had written.

“He is all I ever had,” Whisenhunt said of the man she fell in love with as a teenager. “We have been together since before we knew what love and life was about.”

Mitchell Whisenhunt planned his own funeral, and as his wife raises money to pay for it, she said she can’t help but wonder what other surprises her husband has in store.

“There are ones we still don’t know about,” she said. “The funeral director said he couldn’t tell me. It was Mitchell’s plan and secret.”

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Eric Frein Lookalike Stopped by Cops 20 Times in Manhunt

iStock/Thinkstock(CANADENSIS, Pa.) — A Pennsylvania man says he’s been stopped by police more than 20 times as authorities continue to search the area where he lives for accused cop killer Eric Frein.

James Tully’s walk to work crosses right through the manhunt area near Canadensis, where police have been searching the woods for Frein for more than five weeks.

Once, he said he was even ambushed at gunpoint by authorities who thought he was the suspect, Tully recalled.

“Because I’m walking and I’m carrying a book bag, and for some reason people seem to think I’m the one they’re looking for,” Tully told ABC News affiliate WNEP, adding that he’s been stopped by police too many times to remember.

“I’ve lost count after 20 in total,” he said. “The most on one round trip stretch was about seven times.”

Tully, who works for a metal manufacturing factory, has started wearing his employer ID card around his neck and a reflective vest on his walks.

“The one they’re hunting for, he’s not going to stand out,” Tully said. “He’s going to try and blend in. I want to stand out so I can let them know; look, I’m not the one they’re looking for. Just let me go on my way.”

Pennsylvania State Police did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

Increased police presence has hurt businesses in the Pocono Mountains and put locals on edge, residents have said. In press conferences about the manhunt, Lt. Col George Bivens has repeatedly thanked people who live in the area for their support.

Pocono Mountain Schools were closed on Tuesday after a reported sighting of Frein near the school campus, but reopened on Wednesday.

Frein, a self-trained survivalist, is accused of shooting two troopers, killing one and injuring another, at the Blooming Grove police barracks on Sept. 12, and then fleeing into the woods.

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Passenger Arriving at Newark Evaluated for Possible Ebola

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEWARK, N.J.) — A passenger who arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport from Brussels on United flight 998 Tuesday was being evaluated for possible symptoms of Ebola, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The passenger was taken by ambulance to University Hospital in Newark, N.J., which was designated as the facility for any passengers flagged by health screeners at the airport, the CDC said.

“During the enhanced screening process for individuals arriving to the United States from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, an individual was identified as reporting symptoms or having a potential exposure to Ebola,” the CDC said in a statement Tuesday night. “The passenger is being transported to a local hospital for further evaluation.”

The CDC said that if it is determined that the other passengers were in any risk of exposure they will be contacted by CDC or state or local health officials.

United said in a statement: “Health officials examined a passenger. The other customers were cleared and deplaned normally.”

Additionally Tuesday, an adult and a child, both of whom began their trips in Liberia, were taken from O’Hare International Airport in Chicago to hospitals to be evaluated for Ebola, although in both cases the CDC decided not to test for Ebola.

Enhanced screening measures for passengers arriving from the three West African countries went into effect just this week. According to those measures, passengers arriving in the U.S. from Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia can only disembark at five airports, including Newark and O’Hare.

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Passenger Arriving at Newark Evaluated for Possible Ebola

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEWARK, N.J.) — A passenger who arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport from Brussels on United flight 998 Tuesday was being evaluated for possible symptoms of Ebola, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The passenger was taken by ambulance to University Hospital in Newark, N.J., which was designated as the facility for any passengers flagged by health screeners at the airport, the CDC said.

“During the enhanced screening process for individuals arriving to the United States from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, an individual was identified as reporting symptoms or having a potential exposure to Ebola,” the CDC said in a statement Tuesday night. “The passenger is being transported to a local hospital for further evaluation.”

The CDC said that if it is determined that the other passengers were in any risk of exposure they will be contacted by CDC or state or local health officials.

United said in a statement: “Health officials examined a passenger. The other customers were cleared and deplaned normally.”

Additionally Tuesday, an adult and a child, both of whom began their trips in Liberia, were taken from O’Hare International Airport in Chicago to hospitals to be evaluated for Ebola, although in both cases the CDC decided not to test for Ebola.

Enhanced screening measures for passengers arriving from the three West African countries went into effect just this week. According to those measures, passengers arriving in the U.S. from Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia can only disembark at five airports, including Newark and O’Hare.

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