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News Scan

Civilian Courts Are Not the Place to Try Terrorists:  Wall Street Journal writer, and former United States Attorney General, Michael Mukasey opines on the Obama administration's plan to try several of the prisoners now detained at Guantanamo Bay in United States civilian courts.  The Justice Department claims that civilian courts are well suited to the task.  Mukasey, U.S. Attorney General from 2007-09, believes that civilian courts are ill-suited for trying terrorists and states the matter should be left to the military.  Mukasey cites as an example Ahmed Ghailani's transfer from Guantanamo.  In a civilian terrorist trial, to maintain the security of the courthouse and the jail, deputy U.S. marshals must be brought in to escort the defendant, jurors, and judge to and from the courthouse.  Prosecuting a terrorist in civilian court also creates problems for the intelligence gathering community by disclosing evidence about means and methods of evidence collection that have nothing to do with the case for the public's knowledge.  By trying terrorists before a military commission where the permissibility of evidence is based on relevance and apparent reliability, the circumstances of their capture on the battlefield can be described by affidavit, without bringing to court the particular soldier or unit that effected the capture.

A Study on Why States Can't Afford Death Penalty:  CNN writer Bill Mears reports on the cost of the death penalty in the U.S.  At 678, California has the nation's largest death row population, yet the state has not executed anyone in four years.  The state still spends $130 million a year on its capital punishment system, housing and prosecuting inmates while they cope with an appellate system that has kept some convicted killers waiting for an execution date since the late 1970's.  Many death penalty supporters say part of the problem is that states have added unnecessary, time consuming delays because of a reluctance to carry out the death penalties their own legislatures have enacted.  Kent Scheidegger, Legal Director of the Sacramento, California based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, states that by building support for the death sentence and imposing it more regularly where it is warranted, states can have a powerful incentive for plea bargaining, and could also provide states with large savings in trial and incarceration costs.

First Woman Given Federal Death Sentence Appeals:  The Associated Press reports that Angela Johnson, the first woman given a federal death sentence after it's reinstatement has challenged her conviction and sentence.  Johnson was convicted in federal court in 2005 for the 1993 drug-related slayings of three adults and two children in northern Iowa.  She was sentenced to death for four of the killings and given a life sentence for the fifth.  Johnson's attorneys argue that not only did her past attorneys not adequately investigate the facts of the case, but Johnson was tried while incompetent, in violation of her constitutional rights.  They say she suffered from brain damage, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and methamphetamine addiction. 

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