Sunday, November 10, 2002

The Antigua Sun & the Jamaica Observer report that the task force investigating DC sniper John Allen Muhammed's activities in Antigua is looking for three Jamaican citizens, including a mystery accomplice involved in Muhammed's abandoned plan to kidnap prime minister Lester Bird & bomb a bank in St. John's. This unidentified accomplice was issued with an Antiguan passport in August 2000 under the name "John Edwards" & is believed to have applied for a US passport under the name "Frederick Jones."

Meanwhile, the NY Times reports that US investigators believe Lee Malvo was the actual gunman in most of the sniper shootings. The authorities have already decided to try Muhammed & Malvo first in the state of Virginia, which permits the execution of 17-year-olds (Malvo is not yet an adult), in hopes of getting capital sentences for both snipers. After the daily horrors of last month's sniping spree it's not surprising that lots of people want the worst possible punishment for the culprits (& I've come across some gruesome suggestions posted in the blogosphere), but at least a few voices have been raised to insist that that fact of those horrors should not cancel out certain standards of justice & decency (from the Times):

"Advocates for juveniles today sharply criticized a decision by the police to question Mr. Malvo without a lawyer or a guardian present. Todd G. Petit, Mr. Malvo's court-appointed guardian, has said the police barred him from contacting Mr. Malvo or accompanying him during questioning. On Friday, Mr. Malvo's court-appointed lawyer, Michael S. Arif, said he would ask a judge to bar prosecutors from using statements his client made in the session.

"Diane Fenner, a Virginia lawyer and expert in juvenile justice, said there could be grounds for throwing any statements out, but that such a move could be difficult. 'In Virginia, the rights of juveniles have been left undefined and it's almost an oxymoron to say "rights of a juvenile,"' she said. 'That's obviously why they want to try him in Virginia, and that's why the situation is so bleak for him.'"

I find the death penalty unconditionally abhorrent, but you needn't agree with this opinion to find it deeply disturbing that law officials in Washington are so gung-ho to have Malvo executed. I fear when the time comes very few people will make any protest. At least Amnesty International's Caribbean representatives say they will.

No comments: