Originally created 02/24/03

Across the southeast



Trial begins 36 years after man's acquittal

JACKSON, Miss. -When Ernest Avants was acquitted of murdering a black sharecropper in what allegedly was a failed plot to lure and assassinate the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., convictions for white-on-black crimes were rare in Mississippi.

Today, about 36 years after Mr. Avants was found innocent of state charges, the 72-year-old stroke survivor will step into a federal court that may have trouble finding jurors who don't already think he is guilty of the highly publicized crime.

Prosecutors say Mr. Avants, James Jones and Claude Fuller lured 67-year-old Ben Chester White into the Homochitto National Forest near Natchez, in southwestern Mississippi, in 1966. They allege the three repeatedly shot Mr. White and dumped his body in a nearby creek, solely because he was black.

Colleagues say doctor is excellent surgeon

DURHAM, N.C. -The surgeon who mistakenly transplanted organs of the wrong blood type into Jesica Santillan's body is widely described as a gifted, caring doctor who goofed.

Dr. James Jaggers, 39, said in a written statement after Jesica Santillan's death Saturday that he was "devastated" and "heartbroken" by what happened. He taken responsibility for the mix-up. Duke University Medical Center has blamed Dr. Jaggers for the error.

His failure to recognize that he was giving Jesica organs of the wrong blood type has drawn the attention of the public and regulatory agencies to Duke's highly regarded transplant program.

The state Department of Facility Services, which oversees hospitals, is reviewing Duke's transplant program in response to the mismatch.

Dr. Jaggers has been a surgeon at Duke since the mid-1990s. Dr. A. Resai Bengur, who worked with him as part of the transplant team for more than five years, praises Dr. Jaggers as an excellent specialist.

Panel from Challenger criticizes new inquiry

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -The board investigating the Columbia disaster has too many members who are on the government payroll, lacks scientists and doesn't have enough distance from NASA, say several members of the panel that investigated the Challenger explosion.

The 10-member Columbia board was appointed by NASA officials, while the panel that investigated the 1986 Challenger accident was appointed by President Reagan.

"It would put their independence beyond a doubt if they were to report to the president," said David C. Acheson, a member of the Challenger board.

Mr. Acheson, 81, a retired attorney living in Washington, was one of the 13 members of the Rogers Commission, named after its chairman, William P. Rogers, a former secretary of state.