Georgia gov plans emergency declaration, Masters canceled
ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp says he will declare a public health emergency for the state on Saturday morning. The move came as one of the state's marquee events joins the growing list of canceled events over fears of coronavirus infections. The Augusta National golf club on Friday said it would postpone the Masters tournament. Kemp said in a statement that the declaration would allow resources to be marshaled for treatment and mitigation of the virus. More than 1.2 million schoolchildren have been told to stay home next week. One person has died in the state and 42 cases have been confirmed.
Attorney: Georgia followed law in canceling court election
ATLANTA (AP) — An attorney says Georgia’s top elections official followed state law when he canceled a May election to the state Supreme Court in order to allow the governor to appoint a replacement for a sitting justice who won't leave office until November. Attorney Russ Willard said in court Friday that Georgia law says a vacancy is created as soon as the governor accepts a resignation. Two former lawmakers filed lawsuits after they tried to qualify to run for the seat of Justice Keith Blackwell on the Georgia Supreme Court last week but were told the election was canceled.
DNA EVIDENCE-NEW TRIAL
Georgia's high court rules DNA evidence warrants new trial
SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Georgia's highest court says a man serving a life sentence for a 1976 slaying deserves a new trial after recent DNA tests cast doubt on his guilt. The Georgia Supreme Court sided with a lower court Friday in ordering a new trial for 64-year-old Johnny Lee Gates. He was convicted of murder in the 1976 shooting of 19-year-old Katharina Wright in Columbus. Last year, a judge ordered Gates a new trial after DNA tests showed a belt and neckties used to bind the victim didn't show traces of Gates' DNA. State attorneys appealed, arguing the trial court judge abused his discretion. But the state Supreme Court agreed the DNA evidence likely would have produced a different verdict.
FATAL MALL SHOOTING
Atlanta police search for man after fatal mall shooting
ATLANTA (AP) — Atlanta police have charged, but are still searching for, a suspect accused of fatally shooting a man outside an upscale Atlanta mall after an argument over a parking space. Police said the man was charged Thursday with felony murder. The department's Fugitive Unit is searching for the suspect, who has not been publicly identified. Police say 31-year-old Thuan Nguyen of Antioch, Tennessee, was fatally shot at Lenox Square. Authorities say two groups of people in separate vehicles began arguing over a parking space Sunday. Police say the groups went inside the mall, but the argument escalated when both parties came back outside and Nguyen was shot in the head.
New plan shrinks proposed mine near Okefenokee Swamp refuge
SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — A company seeking to mine minerals near the vast wildlife refuge in the Okefenokee Swamp has a new plan that would substantially shrink the mine's initial footprint. Twin Pines Minerals of Alabama submitted a new permit application to the Army Corps of Engineers for the project near the Georgia-Florida state line. It proposes mining on 898 acres during the initial phase, compared to the company's prior proposal of 1,450 acres. Twin Pines withdrew its previous permit application last month. Federal wildlife officials told the Army Corps in October they fear the mining project could cause substantial and irreversible environmental damage to the nearby Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. The company's own study concluded impacts would be negligible.
No rite of spring for golf: Masters postponed due to virus
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — The annual rite of spring for golf won't happen this year. The Masters has been postponed until a later date because of the coronavirus. Augusta National did not indicate when the Masters would be played. That means there will be no golf at least for the next month. The Masters began in 1934 and only World War II has kept it from being played. This was the biggest shoe to drop for golf. The PGA Tour already canceled the next three events leading up to the Masters. Tiger Woods was to be going after his sixth green jacket.
Georgia lawmakers OK $100 million for virus, other spending
ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia lawmakers agreed that Gov. Brian Kemp can spend $100 million to combat COVID-19. The House and Senate voted Thursday for midyear budget adjustments that shift the money from Georgia's $2.8 billion in reserves to Kemp's emergency fund. Officials say the money would be used to match federal funding and other state spending. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Terry England says an additional $5 million is also provided to rural hospitals to cover expenses associated with the new coronavirus. Despite the new money, the plan still cuts $159 million from other spending in the state budget year that runs through June 30.
Georgia House passes bill to strengthen gang-related laws