Tracking Terrorists: New guidelines for identifying terrorists within the United States, which would give the FBI tools currently used against organized crime, were proposed today according to this AP story by Larry Hargasak. If adopted, the guidelines would allow agents to conduct physical surveillance, recruit snitches and conduct pretext interviews to uncover information about possible terrorists. The proposals were immediately criticized by the ACLU and some Democratic lawmakers for allowing a suspect's ethnic background to be among the criteria for initiating an investigation. A Justice Department spokesman noted that ethnicity is often an essential marker in criminal investigations, pointing out that the investigation of members of La Cosa Nostra required a focus on Italians and tracking Hezbollah meant looking primarily at Lebanese.
Drug Lord Needs Bigger Cell: Ramirez Abadia, who is being held on federal charges for heading a cartel that smuggled an estimated $10 billion worth of cocaine into the U.S. between 1990 and 2003, is claustrophobic in his New York maximum security cell. The Associate Press reports that his lawyer is asking a federal judge to move Abadia to a Detention Center in Brooklyn where he will be more comfortable.
Death Sentence Upheld: Twenty-seven years after receiving a death sentence for stalking and shooting two 12-year-old girls, one fatally, a Ninth Circuit panel has upheld the death sentence of Thomas Edwards. A story in today's Orange County Register by Larry Wellborn reports how in 1981, at a Southern California campground, Edwards spotted best friends Venessa Iberri and Kelly Cartier walking to a picnic. After following the two girls to a remote spot, he pulled up to them in his pickup and shot them both in the head. His conviction and death sentence in 1986 began a series of appeals and delays described by one judge as reminiscent of "Dickens' Bleak House." The federal appeals process alone has taken 17 years, not including the possibility of an en banc review by the Ninth Circuit.
Geographic Disparity: The Baltimore Sun has this letter to the editor in which the author disputes the notion that variation among counties is a problem that needs to be fixed. The writer reacts to an Abell Foundation study showing differences between Baltimore City jury verdicts and those in surrounding counties. "The study not only identified differences in verdicts but went on to the make the shocking proposal that we should consider a regional jury pool. But differences don't necessarily indicate problems; distinct approaches more often than not lead to the right answer." Here is the twist: the letter writer is an Assistant Public Defender in Baltimore.