Donna Foote

Stories by Donna Foote

  • California's Teen Gulags

    The prisoner -- call him "J" -- has committed 14 serious disciplinary offenses and is confined to his cell in the lock-down unit 20 hours a day. Last week "J" attacked two guards who were escorting him back to his cell in shackles. As one guard knelt to unfasten his leg irons, "J" bolted from his cell and swung the door at the other, then hit the first guard in the head. The guards called for backup and wrestled him to the floor, then zapped him with pepper spray, a chemical agent that leaves its victim choking and in pain. Hours later, "J" was still banging on his cell door and shrieking in fury; the guard he hit went to the hospital. All this occurred at the Fred C. Nelles School in Whittier, Calif., where "J" is doing time for assault with a deadly weapon. He is 16 years old. ...
  • Now Comes The Legal Odyssey

    Monitored every 15 minutes as a suicide risk, O. J. Simpson now sits in a 7-foot-by-9-foot cell in the Los Angeles County Jail. Scheduled for arraignment this week, the best he can hope for, if convicted, is a long prison term: ...
  • A Vote For L.A. Law And Order?

    A two-term city councilman with boyish appeal, a polished spiel and lots of name recognition, Michael Woo began the year confidently expecting the 1993 Los Angeles mayoral race to become a game of "Woo and who?" Then came Richard Riordan, a millionaire Republican lawyer who had never before run for political office. Deftly playing on the city's anxieties about crime, unemployment and the Rodney King riot, Riordan has spent $6 million of his own money selling himself as the only candidate "tough enough to turn L.A. around." He finished first, with 33 percent of the vote, in the April primary and now leads Woo by 7 percent among likely voters. 'That leaves Woo, a liberal Democrat in the tradition of five-term incumbent Mayor Tom Bradley, looking for a miracle with only three weeks to go-and that in turn is why Bill Clinton is coming to Los Angeles this week to help. ...
  • Witness For The Prosecution

    In many ways, it is the same case. Like the trial in California state court last year, the federal proceedings against four police officers accused of violating Rodney King's civil rights turns on an interpretation of 81 seconds of searing videotape. The prosecution claims the recording shows a heinous use of unreasonable force. The defense argues the beating was justified because of the officers' perception that King was a threat. Which of those two views a jury finds more plausible will govern whether the cops are convicted or set free. ...
  • Who Would Want This Job?

    They called him "King Condom" when he tried to give out contraceptives. But New York City Schools Chancellor Joseph Fernandez won, and in 1991 New York became the first city to distribute condoms in schools. That turned out to be a mere skirmish compared to the war last year over a curriculum teaching first graders tolerance for homosexuals. This time the Roman Catholic Church came down on Fernandez and parents rebelled, saying he was teaching sin instead of spelling. It didn't help when Fernandez disclosed in his autobiography, published last month, that he had been a heroin user as a teenager. Last week Fernandez, 57, lost his fight to continue presiding over the nation's largest school system, when the school board voted 4 to 3 not to renew his $195,000-a-year contract, which expires in June. ...
  • L.A. Law, After Daryl Gates

    Some honeymoon. The day Willie Williams was sworn in as chief of the Los Angeles Police Department last month, Amnesty International released a report with fresh allegations of brutality by L.A. cops. The charges, which include the use of attack dogs on suspects who had already surrendered, are under investigation. Two days later, on June 28, Williams found himself heading up the city's emergency operations after California's biggest earthquake in 40 years. Then on July 1, a white officer with a record of misconduct shot an unarmed black tow-truck driver in the back. Williams later suspended him. A week later the chief ordered the offices of the department's Organized Crime Intelligence Division (0CID) padlocked and placed under guard after a new book charged that his predecessor, Daryl Gates, ran it like a spy squad, compiling files on as many as 20,000 private citizens, politicians and celebrities. ...
  • What Is The 'Big One'?

    These are nervous times in southern California. Adding to the scary news of riots, rising unemployment, record immigration and a state financial crisis, last week's twin earthquakes in the sparsely populated region around Palm Springs has revived perennial fears about the Big One-the historic earthquake that could someday turn the Los Angeles metropolitan area into a disaster area. Take Shirley Williams, for example. Personnel director for the city of Inglewood, Williams decided months ago to get out of the Big One's path. She quit her job and said goodbye to friends, who gave her a T shirt that said SHIRLEY HAS NO FAULTS. The very next morning, she was awakened by the shock wave from the first quake near Palm Springs. "I was beginning to think maybe I was a bit kooky," she said. " But then Sunday morning rolled along, and I said,'No way-this is the right thing to do.' With these earthquakes, I feel like I'm holding onto the edge, waiting for the Big One." ...
  • 'The Hottest Button You Can Push'

    Amanda Silver looks too wholesome to have written as twisted a tale as "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle," but, says the 28-year-old first-time screenwriter, it was easy. "Once I got those two women in the same house together fighting over that family, the script wrote itself. Sometimes I couldn't wait to get to my computer to see what would happen next." ...
  • Give Us Your Ambitious, Your Brainy, Your ...

    American students regularly rank near the bottom in international science competitions and American highschoolers don't know Cher from Chernobyl. But when the world wants to learn science and engineering, where does it go to graduate school? The United States. "The U.S. is about as good as it gets for post-baccalaureate education," says Philip Altbach, director of the Comparative Education Center at the State University of New York-Buffalo. For proof, follow the money-the tuition money. In 1989 (the most recent figures), 33.8 percent of the doctorates awarded by American schools in the natural and computer sciences and engineering went to foreign students. Between 1977 and 1989, the number of doctorates in natural science awarded to Americans fell 5.8 percent; foreigners' increased 105 percent ...
  • Death On The Range

    Two vultures circle low over the parched range. Below them, just yards from a dried-up watering hole, is the rotting carcass of a wild horse. The mare had kicked her newborn foal away. Then, as her stallion stood guard, the weakened horse lay down to die, the latest victim of a punishing drought--and of the arcane politics of land management in the West. ...
  • No, But I Saw The Trailer

    How does a major studio sell a movie about firefighters, of all people, with an arcane title like "Backdraft"? Eight months from release and halfway into production, Universal solved its problem by making a trailer that stars a fire. The two-minute teaser used no dialogue and told no story. But the image of billowing rolls of flame spreading beastlike across a room captured the public imagination and spearheaded a hugely successful marketing campaign. In its first two weeks on screen, the movie raked in $32 million. "It was like having a tiger by the tail," says Universal's senior vice president for marketing David Sameth. ...
  • The Lessons Of The Tombs

    Archeologists report the first 'catacombs' from the Native Americans of the Southwest ...
  • The Bad And Not So Beautiful

    If you're a player in Hollywood, there's only one way to read Julia Phillips's book "You'll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again" (573 pages. Random House. $22). First turn to the index to see if you're mentioned in the former producer's acerbic kiss-and-tell memoir. If you've escaped her scathing scrutiny, you can relax - and start looking for names of people not as fortunate. ...