Today's Papers

Capitol Murder

The Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and New York Times lead with the day’s dominant story: a gunman’s shooting spree in a Capitol corridor that killed two police officers and wounded a tourist. Details of the gunman’s actions vary among the three papers–all describe a scene of great terror and confusion. Russel E. Weston Jr., of Helena, Mont., who had been investigated by the Secret Service for making threats against President Clinton in 1996, marched past a weapons detector and began firing, killing one police officer and mortally wounding a second officer whose own shots brought the gunman down. The WP and LAT give personal information on the fallen officers, including their marital status (both were married) and number of children (2 and 3). The NYT focuses on the details of the shootings, including a front-page photo of a bloody, wounded tourist and a description of Weston’s gun (six-shot .38 caliber Smith and Wesson revolver). All make note of Tennessee Republican Senator (and cardiac surgeon) Bill Frist’s attempt to aid both a wounded officer and the gunman.

President Clinton’s efforts to avoid testifying before a federal grand jury make the front page at the LAT and NYT and get a reefer at the WP. David Kendall, Clinton’s personal lawyer, has been negotiating with the Starr camp about possible means of providing information to the Independent Counsel without forcing the first ever appearance of an acting President before a grand jury. All three papers mention that discussions were initiated by fresh talk of a subpoena that, as the NYT quotes an anonymous attorney, had been “drawn up and ready for delivery” to the president. The LAT stresses Clinton’s desire to appear cooperative towards Starr’s investigation, while the NYT and WP focus on the constitutional showdown that could arise should the President be subpoenaed.

The election of Japanese Foreign Minister Keizo Obuchi as Liberal Democratic Party president makes all three fronts. Obuchi, a longtime LDP insider, will almost certainly succeed Ryutaro Hashimoto as Japan’s next Prime Minister. His prize: a ruling party divided between young reformers and conservative lawmakers and Japan’s worst economic recession in fifty years.

The LAT and WP front pages carry the ruling by a South Carolina jury that two Klu Klux Klan chapters (and five individual Klansmen) must pay $37.8 million for instigating the burning of a black church in 1995. The damages, over $10 million more than sought by the plaintiff, are the largest ever awarded in a hate crimes case.

All three papers report the guilty verdict rendered by a Texas jury in the murder trial of former Air Force Academy cadet, David Graham. Graham faces an automatic life sentence–the victim’s family requested that prosecutors not seek the death penalty. He will join his former fiancee and ex-Naval Academy midshipman, Diane Zamora, who currently is serving a life sentence for her role in the murder. In a biblical turn, the WP and NYT call Zamora “vengeful” and cite her as the driving force behind the murder of the 16-year-old victim.