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No Death Penalty For Triple Murders: A story from the KX Net reports that a a convicted drug dealer, charged with murdering three women at a Florence hair salon in Montana, is not eligible for the death penalty. In an order signed Monday, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy agreed with defense lawyers who said a grand jury indictment does not accuse Lincoln Benavides of personally and directly killing the victims. Benavides is accused of killing the three women, who were found with slit throats, on Nov. 6, 2001. His co-defendant remains eligible for the death penalty and has pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors allege the murders were related to a drug ring run by Benavides.

Justice Department And The NYPD Feud Over Wiretap Requests: Evan Perez from the Wall Street Journal reports that NY City police and Justice Department officials have long been rivals over how to keep the nation's largest city safe from terrorist attack. According to Perez, the ongoing rivalry has devolved into a feud over the use of national security surveillance wiretaps, with both sides accusing each other of endangering national security. In letters, NY Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly and Attorney General Michael Mukasey have sparred over how officials from the Justice Department and FBI handle requests made by NY City police for warrants to conduct national security surveillance. Warrant requests must go through the Justice Department before they are submitted to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court. Mr. Kelly has complained, among other things, that Justice officials are overly cautious about submitting requests to the FISA court. Mr. Mukasey has defended the Department, arguing it is only upholding FISA. Mr. Kelly's allegations are contrary to to the reputation the Bush administration has developed among civil-liberties groups, which say the administration is too willing to allow eavesdropping that threaten Americans' civil liberties. The New York Times also has this story.

The Right to Counsel vs. the Need to Bar Tainted Legal Fees: An article by Dan Slater from the Wall Street Journal reports that the Justice Department has failed to provide guidance on how defense attorneys can protect themselves against prosecution for taking legal fees that turn out to be tainted by dirty money - thus deterring them from representing accused drug dealers. The criminal defense bar is closely watching the coming trial of a prominent Miami attorney, Ben Kuehne who was hired by a fellow attorney to vet the source of his fees and then indicted for money-laundering. The Justice Department says that Kuehne approved assets for sale that he knew were tainted with the proceeds of drug money. The defense bar worries that accepting legal fees from questionable sources could interfere with the Sixth Amendment's right to counsel of one's choice. Some claim there are no clear guidelines for attorneys to follow that ensure drug defendants aren't using ill-gotten gains to fund their legal defense.

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Hmmm, am I being simplistic in suggesting that perhaps an easy guideline might just be to NOT take $ if you think it could be dirty? Or am I failing to understand the difficult & complex world faced by criminal defense attorneys who take suitcases of cash from those charged with major drug offenses?

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