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Schools ask to block the Sunshine for land deals

Some public school officials want an exemption from Florida's open government Sunshine Law to allow districts to negotiate property deals in secret, saying land owners hike prices when they hear school districts are property hunting.

Secret negotiations would prevent property owners from boosting the cost of the increasingly scarce land that meets schools' needs, said Wayne Blanton, executive director of the Florida School Boards Association, an independent research organization that reports to the state Legislature.

"I know of instances where property value has jumped overnight," Blanton said. "We've seen it time and time again."

Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation, a Tallahassee-based group that monitors open records laws, said the state should not allow secret negotiations.

"Where schools are built (is) an issue of critical public importance," she said. "People who live in the county have a right to know from the beginning."

Teen convicted in girl's death goes free this week

WEST PALM BEACH _ A young teen who stomped and kicked a playmate to death is expected to walk out of jail this week, three years after he became the youngest defendant in the country to be locked away for life.

Supporters say Lionel Tate recognizes that the reversal of his first-degree murder conviction will be his only second chance.

Tate will go before Circuit Judge Joel Lazarus twice this week to make the final arrangements for his release. Lazarus oversaw Tate's criminal trial two years ago and repeatedly rejected requests to throw out or reduce the tough sentence for a crime Tate committed when he was 12.

An appeals court threw out the sentence last month, when judges ruled he should have been evaluated to make sure he understood what was at stake at his trial.

_ From wire reports