Tuesday April 2, 2013

Prosecutors will seek death penalty in movie theater attack; ‘Justice is death’

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) -- For James Holmes, "justice is death," prosecutors said Monday in announcing they will seek his execution if he is convicted in the Colorado movie theater attack that killed 12 people.

The decision -- disclosed in court just days after prosecutors publicly rejected Holmes’ offer to plead guilty if they took the death penalty off the table -- elevated the already sensational case to a new level and could cause it to drag on for years.

"It’s my determination and my intention that in this case, for James Eagan Holmes, justice is death," District Attorney George Brauchler said, adding that he had discussed the case with 60 people who lost relatives in the July 20 shooting rampage by a gunman in a gas mask and body armor during a midnight showing of the latest Batman movie.

There was no audible reaction from the 25-year-old former neuroscience graduate student, who sat with his back to reporters, or from victims’ families in the courtroom. Holmes’ parents sat side by side in the gallery, clutching hands with fingers intertwined.

The decision had been widely predicted by legal analysts.


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Killing of district attorney and wife puts other Texas prosecutors on high alert

KAUFMAN, Texas (AP) -- Deputies escorted some Kaufman County employees into the courthouse Monday, two days after the district attorney and his wife were found shot to death in their home in an attack that stirred fears that other public employees could be targeted by assassins.

Law enforcement officers were seen patrolling one side of the courthouse, one holding a semi-automatic weapon, while others walked around inside.

Authorities have said little about the investigation into the deaths of Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, whose bodies were found Saturday.

The couple’s slayings came less than two weeks after Colorado’s prison chief was shot to death at his front door, apparently by an ex-convict, and a couple of months after Kaufman County Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse was killed in a parking lot near his courthouse office. No arrests have been made in Hasse’s Jan. 31 killing.

"I don’t want to walk around in fear every day ... but on the other hand, two months ago, we wouldn’t be having this conversation," County Judge Bruce Wood, the county’s top administrator, said Monday at a news conference.

Mexican cartels dispatch agents to live and work deep inside United States

CHICAGO (AP) -- Mexican drug cartels whose operatives once rarely ventured beyond the U.S. border are dispatching some of their most trusted agents to live and work deep inside the United States -- an emboldened presence that experts believe is meant to tighten their grip on the world’s most lucrative narcotics market and maximize profits.

If left unchecked, authorities say, the cartels’ move into the American interior could render the syndicates harder than ever to dislodge and pave the way for them to expand into other criminal enterprises such as prostitution, kidnapping-and-extortion rackets and money laundering.

Cartel activity in the U.S. is certainly not new. Starting in the 1990s, the ruthless syndicates became the nation’s No. 1 supplier of illegal drugs, using unaffiliated middlemen to smuggle cocaine, marijuana and heroin beyond the border or even to grow pot here.

But a wide-ranging Associated Press review of federal court cases and government drug-enforcement data, plus interviews with many top law enforcement officials, indicate the groups have begun deploying agents from their inner circles to the U.S. Cartel operatives are suspected of running drug-distribution networks in at least nine non-border states, often in middle-class suburbs in the Midwest, South and Northeast.

"It’s probably the most serious threat the United States has faced from organized crime," said Jack Riley, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Chicago office.

Syrian activist group says more than 6,000 killed in March, deadliest month yet

BEIRUT (AP) -- March was the bloodiest month yet in Syria’s 2-year-old conflict with more than 6,000 documented deaths, a leading anti-regime activist group said Monday, blaming the increase on heavier shelling and more violent clashes.

Rami Abdul-Rahman, who heads the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the increased toll is likely incomplete because both the Syrian army and the rebel groups fighting the government often underreport their dead in the civil war.

"Both sides are hiding information," Abdul-Rahman said by phone from Britain, where his group is based. "It is very difficult to get correct info on the fighters because they don’t want the information to hurt morale."

The numbers, while provided by only one group, support the appraisal of the conflict offered by many Syria watchers: The civil war is largely a military stalemate that is destroying the country’s social fabric and taking a huge toll on civilians.

The increase also reflects the continuing spread of major hostilities to new parts of Syria. While clashes continue in Aleppo, Damascus and Homs, Syria’s three largest cities, rebels have launched an offensive in recent weeks to seize towns and army bases in the southern province of Daraa, largely with the help of an influx of foreign-funded weapons.

MTV ‘BUCKWILD’ reality star, 2 others found dead in W.Va. day after being reported missing

SISSONVILLE, W.Va. (AP) -- A cast member of the MTV reality show "BUCKWILD" was found dead Monday in a sport utility vehicle in a ditch along with his uncle and a third, unidentified person, authorities said.

Kanawha County Sheriff’s Department Cpl. B.D. Humphreys said the bodies of cast member, Shain Gandee, 21, his uncle David Gandee, 48, and the third person were found Monday in a remote area near Sissonville.

Authorities had been searching for the men since early Sunday morning. They were last seen around 3 a.m. Sunday at a bar in Sissonville and they told people they were going driving off-road.

Humphreys said state police were getting ready to send out an aviation unit to search for the men when authorities received a call Monday morning that a vehicle was found wrecked in a muddy area a few miles from Gandee’s home in Sissonville, about 15 miles outside of Charleston.

Authorities found the 1984 Ford Bronco that belonged to the Gandee family in a ditch with all three men inside. Humphreys did not provide details on the condition of the vehicle or the bodies. He said no foul play was suspected.

With big political issues seemingly settled, Gang of Eight turns to immigration plan’s details

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Big business and big labor have settled on a political framework for an immigration overhaul. Now, the lawmakers writing bipartisan legislation need to resolve the nitty-gritty -- and keep their parties’ political flanks mollified.

Business and labor negotiators late last week agreed on a deal that would allow tens of thousands of low-skilled workers into the country and pay them fair wages. It was a last major sticking point before the deal goes to the eight senators -- four Democrats, four Republicans -- to sign off on the details and propose legislation. They are looking to set in motion the most dramatic changes to the faltering U.S. immigration system in more than two decades.

"There are a few details yet. But conceptually, we have an agreement between business and labor, between ourselves that has to be drafted," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

The so-called Gang of Eight’s plan would provide a new class of worker visas for low-skilled workers, secure the border, crack down on employers, improve legal immigration and create a 13-year pathway to citizenship for the millions of illegal immigrants already here.

"With the agreement between business and labor, every major policy issue has been resolved," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat who brokered the labor-business deal