NATION: West Memphis 3 win new hearings

West Memphis 3 win new hearings

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- The three men convicted in the grisly murders of three West Memphis Cub Scouts won new hearings Thursday to argue their innocence, more than 15 years after they were sent to prison despite scant physical evidence linking them to the crime scene.

The Arkansas Supreme Court ordered the hearings to decide whether new DNA analysis -- and other evidence not introduced at the 1994 trials -- could lead a reasonable jury to acquit death-row inmate Damien Echols as well as Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, who are serving life sentences.

The ruling was a major win for Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley, who are known to sympathizers as the West Memphis Three and have gained the support of celebrities as well as legal scholars who say they were wrongfully convicted. Echols has been on Arkansas' death row since 1994, when he was 20, after being convicted in the deaths of 8-year-olds Steve Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore. The three boys were found beaten, nude and hog-tied in an area known as Robin Hood Hills in West Memphis.

Rain delays shuttle launch

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- NASA will try again today to send Discovery off on its final journey, after a series of postponements for the oldest and most traveled space shuttle.

Just before daybreak Thursday, mission managers called off an afternoon liftoff because of storms.

Rain was pounding the area, and meteorologists said there was little chance the weather would break in time for launch. Indeed, at the planned liftoff time, it was drizzling.

''As crazy luck would have it,'' the area's monthlong drought ended Thursday, said Pete Nickolenko, assistant launch director.

EPA denies ban on lead tackle

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Environmental Protection Agency denied on Thursday a petition by several environmental groups to ban lead in fishing tackle, two months after rejecting the groups' attempt to ban it in hunting ammunition.

The EPA said that the petition did not demonstrate that a ban on lead in fishing tackle was necessary to protect against unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment, as required by the Toxic Substances Control Act.

Wyoming tops in chewing tobacco

ATLANTA -- Wyoming tops the nation in chewing tobacco use, with nearly 1 in 6 adult men in that state using the product.

Government researchers found men use chew, snus and other smokeless products at much higher rates than women. In Wyoming and West Virginia, about 9 percent of all adults -- both men and women -- use smokeless tobacco.

The report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is one of the government's first attempts to gather state-level statistics on smokeless tobacco. Past research suggests the national usage rate is around 2 percent.

The study is based on a telephone survey last year of more than 430,000 people in all 50 states. The survey asked people whether they smoked cigarettes and/or used smokeless tobacco.

Coroner: Woman alive for attack

NASHUA, N.H. -- A woman hacked to death with a machete and knife in her home was alive for all 32 slash and stab wounds that split open her skull, sliced through bones and pierced organs, a medical examiner testified Thursday.

Both sides in the murder trial of 18-year-old Steven Spader have rested. The defense called no witnesses, ending speculation Spader might take the stand.

Jurors will begin deliberating Monday, after final arguments.

Spader has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder and burglary and witness tampering. He was 17 years old when prosecutors say plotted the home invasion and rounded up the three other young men who accompanied him.

During the home invasion, 42-year-old Kimberly Cates was killed, and her daughter was injured.

BP has paid firm $3.35 million

OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss. -- The law firm of Kenneth Feinberg, the man in charge of BP's $20 billion compensation fund for Gulf oil spill victims, has so far been paid about $3.35 million from BP PLC to dole out the money, the program said Thursday.

The BP payments go to a number of lawyers working on the claims process and are not necessarily exorbitant given the workload.