[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----PENN., VA., CALIF.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Sep 13 23:35:30 CDT 2004
Condemned Lehigh County killer wins stay
In Harrisburg, a federal judge has stayed the Oct. 20 execution of a
Lehigh County man convicted of murdering his nephew's landlord.
U.S. District Judge R. Barclay Surrick in Philadelphia issued the stay for
George Ivan Lopez on Friday.
Lopez, 45, has been on death row since April 1996.
(source: Associated Press)
Moussaoui case sent back to trial court
3 years after September 11, 2001, there is still no trial date for
Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person charged in the United States in
connection to the terrorist attacks, but a federal appeals court Monday
removed one of the remaining procedural obstacles to a trial.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond ordered the Moussaoui
case sent back to trial court so that prosecutors and defense attorneys
can work out a compromise on how to grant Moussaoui access to information
supplied by al Qaeda captives that he says would help absolve him of the
most serious charges against him.
Moussaoui's desire to call the 3 men as defense witnesses has stalled the
case for more than a year and a half.
- Khalid Shaikh Mohamed -- the alleged architect of the September 11
- Ramzi Binalshibh -- one of its alleged coordinators
- Mustafa al-Hawsawi -- one of its alleged financiers
All 3 are all in U.S. military custody in secret locations outside the
United States, and the government argues that interrupting their
interrogations could interfere with efforts to obtain actionable
intelligence to prevent future terrorists attacks.
The defense maintains that the 3 can support Moussaoui's contention that
he had neither a planning nor participatory role in the plot before he was
arrested for overstaying his visa in August 2001.
For the 2nd time, the appeals court agreed, saying in its ruling, "The
enemy combatant witnesses could provide material, favorable testimony on
The appeals panel rejected the need for defense attorneys to directly
question the combatants, which the government has opposed on national
But the court also determined the "government's proposed [written]
substitutions for witness deposition testimony are inadequate," as the
judge overseeing the case ruled last year, and the appeals court
previously ruled in April.
The ruling means U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema in Alexandria,
Virginia, must now fashion new summaries a jury might read that will be
worked on by both prosecutors and the defense.
After the appeals court issued a similar order earlier this year,
Moussaoui's attorneys asked the court to take another look at whether the
government should be permitted to pursue the death penalty and present
evidence of the multiple hijackings and crashes that killed nearly 3,000
people in New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.
The court decided the government could.
Four of the 6 conspiracy counts in Moussaoui's December 2001 indictment
are death penalty-eligible.
Moussaoui's admissions in court
Much of what it considered in the appeal remains classified. But according
to sources familiar with the case, Moussaoui's lawyers argued the
prosecution had access to some interrogation reports of some top al Qaeda
leaders in U.S. custody -- access the defense did not have -- thus giving
prosecutors an unfair advantage.
The appeals panel ruled the case was not prejudiced and stood by its
In a written statement, Attorney General John Ashcroft said, "We are
pleased with today's 4th Circuit ruling, which once again affirms our
belief that the government can provide Zacarias Moussaoui with a fair
trial while still protecting national security interests. Today's ruling
reiterating the 4th Circuit's conclusions and unanimously denying
Moussaoui's request for rehearing by the full court puts the Moussaoui
prosecution back on track."
No trial date was set, nor is it expected before next year.
Moussaoui's team of court-appointed attorneys said they are studying the
latest ruling and considering all options, including an appeal to the
Moussaoui, 36, a French national of Moroccan descent, has admitted in open
court that he belonged to al Qaeda, the radical Islamic group behind the
September 11 attacks, and swore allegiance to its leader, Saudi exile
Osama bin Laden.
The FBI initially questioned and detained Moussaoui after he aroused
suspicion at a Minnesota flight school when he arrived for 747 simulator
training without possessing a pilot's license.
Moussaoui has fiercely denied being involved in the September11 plot, and
prosecutors' theory of his role has shifted from being a possible 20th
hijacker that day to possibly piloting a fifth hijacked jetliner targeting
the White House.
Expert: GPS problems on Peterson's cars
Satellite navigation devices used to track Scott Peterson's car after his
wife's disappearance sometimes developed glitches, once indicating he was
driving 30,000 mph, an expert in the technology acknowledged Monday at
Peterson's murder trial.
Prosecutors allege Peterson acted like a guilty man and lied to friends
and relatives about his whereabouts during the search for his wife, Laci.
Defense lawyers maintain he was trying to avoid media attention.
Peter Van Wyck Loomis, whose company, Trimble Navigation, made the global
positioning satellite technology in the devices police used to monitor
Peterson's travels, testified "there were some rare cases where it was off
by 15 to 20 yards."
In an effort to head off defense attacks on the devices, prosecutor Rick
Distaso noted one instance when a tracking device showed Peterson's
vehicle was moving at more than 30,000 mph.
Loomis said that was about a "100-second" glitch.
During pretrial hearings, defense lawyers fought to keep GPS testimony out
of the trial, claiming it was unreliable and prone to errors. GPS
technology had not yet been qualified as acceptable evidence in a criminal
trial in California.
However, Judge Alfred A. Delucchi ruled in February that the testimony
would be allowed, calling the technology "generally accepted and
The technology, which uses signals from a network of military satellites,
is commonly used by everyone from airline pilots to wildlife management
officials and weekend hikers.
Prosecutors are trying to prove that Peterson killed his eight-months
pregnant wife on or around December 24, 2002, then dumped her weighted
body in San Francisco Bay.
The bodies of Laci Peterson and her fetus washed up on shore in April 2003
not far from a marina where Scott Peterson says he launched his boat that
Christmas Eve morning for a solo fishing trip.
(source: Associated Press)
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