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Illinois governor to block executions

Gov. George H. Ryan has decided to effectively impose a moratorium on the death penalty in Illinois until an inquiry has been conducted into why more death row inmates have been exonerated than executed since capital punishment was reinstated in 1977.

A senior aide to the governor said Ryan will announce today that he plans to block executions by granting stays before any scheduled lethal injections are administered, a move that would keep condemned prisoners under the death sentence but would indefinitely postpone their executions.

Ryan is convinced the death penalty system in Illinois is "fraught with errors" and "broken," and should be suspended until thoroughly investigated, said Ryan's press secretary, Dennis Culloton. Since capital punishment was reinstated 23 years ago, 13 death row inmates have been cleared of murder charges, while 12 have been put to death. Some of the 13 inmates were taken off death row after DNA evidence exonerated them; the cases of others collapsed after new trials were ordered by appellate courts.

Culloton said Ryan will appoint a special commission to study the state's capital punishment system in general and specifically the 13 cases in which defendants were found to have been wrongly convicted of capital crimes.

Elsewhere . . .

OFFICERS ON TRIAL: Jury selection begins today in the racially charged trial of four white New York City police officers accused of killing Amadou Diallo, an unarmed West African immigrant, in a hail of bullets.

The officers _ Sean Carroll, Edward McMellon, Kenneth Boss and Richard Murphy _ have pleaded innocent, saying they believed Diallo was an armed criminal.

Civil rights activists have vowed to go to Albany, N.Y., where the trial was moved because of pretrial publicity, to rally behind the Diallo family. They have urged federal authorities to monitor the case they say symbolizes widespread police brutality against minorities.

BEST-RUN CITIES: With robust finances and well-trained public work forces, Austin, Texas, and Phoenix are the best-managed major American cities, according to a Syracuse University analysis.

The study rated the governments of the nation's 35 largest cities in terms of revenues, assigning grades from A to F on five management criteria: finances, human resources, capital, information technology and results.

Phoenix was the only one with an A or A- in all five categories. Austin finished with an A- average because of a B grade on use of information technology.

Indianapolis, Minneapolis and Virginia Beach, Va., averaged B+. New York, Philadelphia, Honolulu, Milwaukee, San Diego, San Antonio, Seattle and Long Beach, Calif., had Bs. The only Florida city rated: Jacksonville, with a B-.

TRAIN DERAILS: A coal train derailed Sunday morning near the Maryland-West Virginia border and one car plowed into a house, killing a teenage boy and injuring four members of his family.

Hundreds of rescue workers with dogs searched through spilled coal, rubble and snow before finding the body of Eddie Lee Rogers, 15, in the remnants of the living room about 12 hours after the crash, state police said.

Coal and debris pelted the two-story house, which was pushed 25 feet off its foundation. The derailment's cause was not known.

Rescue workers extricated the boy's mother, Libby A. Holstein, 35; her daughter Brandy N. Holstein, 18; Eugene F. Liller, 32; and his daughter Amanda M. Liller, 13. Mrs. Holstein was in serious condition at Cumberland Memorial Hospital. State police said the others were not seriously injured.