hCalif. teen wins the bee
WASHINGTON -- It was a word he already knew. It was a word he had seen and spelled in recent days, studying the dictionary and his spelling lists with a group of friends in the lobby of the Grand Hyatt Hotel. So when the Scripps National Spelling Bee judge informed Anurag Kashyap, of Poway, Calif., the word that would bring him the title of "spelling bee champion," he almost couldn't believe how easy it was going to be to win. He gasped and looked at his friends, who were eliminated from the bee Wednesday and Thursday. "He's gonna win!" Alexander Martin, a spelling bee competitor and friend of Anurag's, shrieked, as he tried to contain himself. Then, as if he were firing a stream of bullets, Anurag began: "A-P-P-O-G-G-I-A-T-U-R-A." The judge nodded and the crowd wailed with excitement. Anurag, an avid reader and straight-A student, covered his face and the thrill of the victory with his placard and then ran across the stage, hugged his father and cried. "This is just amazing," said Anurag, known as contestant No. 20. The 13-year-old defeated 11-year-old Samir Sudhir Patel, of Colleyville, Texas.
Attorneys in Jackson casebegin final arguments
SANTA MARIA, Calif. -- Michael Jackson was plagued by "con artists, actors and liars," the defense said Thursday after the prosecution portrayed the pop star as a sexual predator who used wealth and celebrity to exploit hapless children. It was a dramatic day pitting lead defense attorney Thomas A. Mesereau Jr., who has won national acclaim in high-profile criminal cases, against Senior Deputy District Attorney Ron Zonen, who has handled some of the most notorious prosecutions in Santa Barbara County -- from where the jury was chosen. "Michael Jackson, not for the first time, took sexual liberties with a 13-year-old boy," Zonen told the jury of eight women and four men. "Michael Jackson should be held responsible." Zonen gave a blistering summation of more than 14 weeks of trial, including a sharp attack on the defense for failing to fulfill the promises it made when it launched its effort to safeguard the pop star from charges of child molestation. Mesereau smoothly riposted: "Whenever a prosecutor does that, you know they're in trouble." The defense lawyer said he could spend time pointing out where the prosecution failed to do what it had said it would do, but that the stakes were too high.
Deal ends choking lawsuit
CHICAGO -- The parents of a sixth-grader who choked to death on marshmallows while playing a classroom game settled their lawsuit against the suburban school district Thursday for $2 million. The settlement came in the second week of a trial over the 1999 death of 12-year-old Catherine "Casey" Fish. Her parents had been seeking unspecified damages. "This case was never about money," said the family's attorney, Francis Patrick Murphy. "This case has been about getting the message across to America that dangerous games should not be played in school, with or without supervision." Casey's parents had argued that Glenview School District and teacher Kevin Dorken were responsible for the girl's death because Dorken, who had been supervising the game, was out of the room while the children were stuffing marshmallows in their mouths to see who could hold the most and still say the words "chubby bunny."