June 7th, 2013
07:40 AM ET

Lawsuits, investigations begin in Philly

Her family says she was brilliant, caring and had the ability to find beauty in everything.

Anne Bryan was in her first year as a full-time student at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

She was among the six people killed Wednesday when a building collapse spilled rubble into a thrift store.

Roseline Conteh, Borbor Davis, Kimberly Finnegan, Juanita Harmin and Mary Simpson also died, according to Mayor Michael Nutter.

"Anne lived her life with an open heart," her family said in a statement. "She gave herself to her family, friends and anyone in need of help. Her generosity was limitless."

January 24th, 2013
08:32 AM ET

Man charged with murder in Philadelphia doctor's death

Authorities have charged a Levittown, Pennsylvania, man in the death of a doctor whose bound body had been set on fire in her home, a law enforcement source told CNN on Thursday.

Jason Smith has been charged with murder, abuse of a corpse and other charges, according to Tasha Jamerson, a spokeswoman for the Philadelphia district attorney's office.

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Filed under: Crime • Justice • U.S.
Ex-NFL star, actor Alex Karras dies, 77
Alex Karras starred in the 1980s TV show "Webster" after playing 12 years with the Detroit Lions.
October 10th, 2012
10:15 AM ET

Ex-NFL star, actor Alex Karras dies, 77

[Updated at 11:32 a.m. ET] Alex Karras, the former Detroit Lions defensive tackle turned actor in the ABC sitcom "Webster," died Wednesday in his Los Angeles home following a battle with kidney disease, heart disease, dementia and stomach cancer, according to a family spokesman.

He was 77.

Karras, a Gary, Indiana native, was an All-American at the University of Iowa before becoming a  four-time Pro Bowl selection in the NFL, playing for the Detroit Lions from 1958 to 1970. He went on to star in the 1980s' sitcom “Webster” - he played George Papadapolis, the guardian of the newly orphaned Webster, played by actor Emmanuel Lewis - and also played the horse-punching Mongo in the 1974 movie “Blazing Saddles."

In April, he joined hundreds of  former NFL players suing the league over concussion-related injuries, serving as lead plaintiff for what was then the 12th concussion-related complaint filed against the NFL by the Locks Law Firm in Philadelphia.

Karras “sustained repetitive traumatic impacts to his head and/or concussions on multiple occasions” during his NFL career, and “suffers from various neurological conditions and symptoms related to the multiple head traumas,” the lawsuit said.

His wife, "Webster” co-star Susan Clark, said in April that Karras suffered from dementia.

The more than 2,000 NFL players who are suing the league claim the NFL misled players concerning the risks associated with concussions. The NFL has repeatedly said that player safety is a priority and that any allegation that the NFL intentionally sought to mislead players has no merit.

According to his family, "Karras had always dreamed of being an actor," and got a boost when Lucille Ball "took him under her wing and allowed him to train in small parts."

Karras also co-wrote autobiographies called "Even Big Guys Cry" and "Alex Karras by Alex Karras."

"His love of nature and most especially of the ocean, where he spent many happy days on his fishing boat, led him to support numerous organizations committed to protecting our environment for future generations," his family said.

Memorial services are being planned and will be announced soon, his family said.

September 6, 2012: Football players more likely to develop neurodegenerative disease, study finds

June 20th, 2012
01:44 PM ET

Report: Jury deadlocked on 4 counts in Pa. priest sex abuse case

The jury in a Philadelphia priest sex abuse case told a judge Wednesday that they are unable to reach a verdict on four of the five charges, CNN affiliate KYW reports.

In a note to Judge Teresa Sarmina, the panel said that it has developed "firm, fixed opinions" and "entrenched positions" among its members, making it unable to return verdicts, according to KYW.

The judge said she will offer the jurors some additional or clarifying remarks if they would find that helpful, according to KYW.

Monsignor William Lynn is considered the first high-ranking church official to be charged in the three-month-long trial.

Lynn is accused of knowingly allowing dangerous priests to continue in the ministry in roles in which they had access to children. Also on trial is the Rev. James Brennan, who is accused of the attempted rape of a 14-year-old. Both Brennan and Lynn have pleaded not guilty.

Mumia Abu-Jamal no longer faces death penalty
Abu-Jamal, convicted of killing a Philadelphia police officer in 1981, argued there were procedural errors during his sentencing.
December 7th, 2011
12:27 PM ET

Mumia Abu-Jamal no longer faces death penalty

Philadelphia prosecutors have dropped their pursuit of the death penalty against Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted of fatally shooting a police officer nearly three decades ago.

Abu-Jamal will instead serve a life sentence in prison, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Abu-Jamal had been sentenced to death for the 1981 killing of Philadelphia police Officer Daniel Faulkner, but a federal appeals court in April declared the death sentence unconstitutional, ruling that the jury instructions at Abu-Jamal's original 1982 murder trial were unclear.

His attorneys have repeatedly argued that confusing jury instructions and the verdict form given to the jury favored a death sentence instead of life in prison.

The April appeals court ruling does not grant Abu-Jamal a new trial, so his conviction of murder stands. Last month, the state Supreme Court rejected a request from the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office to overturn the federal appeals court decision, meaning Abu-Jamal would get a life prison sentence unless the district attorney decided to seek another death sentence from a new jury.

Witnesses testified that Abu-Jamal shot Faulkner in the back and head after the officer pulled his brother over during a late-night traffic stop. He was wounded in the encounter and later confessed to the killing, according to other testimony.

Abu-Jamal has been on death row at a state prison in southwest Pennsylvania, where he's been an outspoken activist from behind bars - claiming there were procedural errors during his capital sentencing, and that too few blacks were on the jury.

The case has attracted international attention, amid charges of prosecutorial misconduct. Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther and onetime radio reporter and cab driver, has been a divisive figure, with many prominent supporters arguing that racism pervaded his trial.

Others counter Abu-Jamal is using his race to try to escape responsibility for his actions. They say he has provoked community unrest for years with his writings and advocacy.

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Filed under: Crime • Pennsylvania
October 24th, 2011
11:48 AM ET

Preliminary hearing set in Philly captives case

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for December 19 for three suspects charged with imprisoning four mentally disabled adults in the basement boiler room of a Philadelphia apartment building, the attorney for one suspect said.

The hearing was scheduled at a status hearing Monday, said George S. Yacoubian Jr., who represents Linda Ann Weston, 51.

Weston and two other suspects - Gregory Thomas, 47, and Eddie Wright, 49 - face charges including criminal conspiracy, aggravated assault, kidnapping, criminal trespass, unlawful restraint and false imprisonment after the landlord of the apartment building found the four people locked in the 15- by 6-foot room with no food and only a bucket for a toilet, police said.

Weston, Thomas and Wright did not appear in court Monday, Yacoubian said. A hearing is set Wednesday for a fourth suspect, Weston's daughter, according to court records.

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Filed under: Crime • Pennsylvania
October 17th, 2011
04:02 PM ET

FBI joins investigation in Philadelphia captivity case

The FBI has joined an investigation into the discovery of four mentally disabled people apparently held captive at a Philadelphia apartment building. A search determined that one of the suspects in the case had identification documents for dozens of people.

Bond for Thomas Gregory, 47, Eddie Wright, 49, and Linda Ann Weston, 51, was set Monday at $2.5 million each, according to the Philadelphia district attorney's office.

All three face charges that include criminal conspiracy, aggravated assault, kidnapping, criminal trespass, unlawful restraint and false imprisonment, Philadelphia police said Sunday. Among other things, the defendants are accused of stealing the alleged prisoners' Social Security checks.

A preliminary hearing on the charges and evidence in the case was set for October 24. No pleas were entered on Monday, with that to happen at a formal arraignment at a date yet to be set.

The FBI joined the investigation after it was determined that Weston allegedly had traveled to at least two other states with the people found in the basement, Lt. Ray Evers said.

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Filed under: Crime • Pennsylvania