Expert Says Padilla Is Unfit for TrialMIAMI --Alleged al-Qaeda operative Jose Padilla suffers from intense stress and anxiety from his isolated years in military custody and cannot adequately help his lawyers prepare for a criminal trial, two defense mental experts testified Thursday. Defense lawyers hope to delve more deeply into Padilla's treatment at a Navy brig in Charleston, S.C., later in the federal hearing, when they are allowed to question brig officials directly involved in his custody. Those officials have not spoken publicly about the case. The hearing will continue Monday.
"He is immobilized by his anxiety," said Patricia A. Zapf, a forensic psychologist who tested Padilla in October. "He believes he will go back to the brig and he will die there."
The hearing before U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke on Padilla's competency is crucial in deciding whether he and two co-defendants will stand trial in April.
Padilla, a 36-year-old U.S. citizen, is charged with being part of a North American terrorism support cell that provided money, recruits and supplies to Islamic extremists around the world. All three have pleaded not guilty; they face possible life imprisonment.
Pentagon Cancels Nevada Test BlastThe Pentagon canceled its plans to conduct a controversial non-nuclear explosion over the Nevada desert.
The experiment, dubbed Divine Strake, was planned as a test of the nation's ability to deal with underground facilities that produce and store weapons of mass destruction.
But it prompted a lawsuit and widespread protests from Utah and Nevada politicians, Indian tribes and residents near the Nevada Test Site, who feared it would kick up radioactive material from previous experiments there.
* * *
· NEW ORLEANS --Two residents got the keys to what are believed to be the first homes built in the Lower Ninth Ward since Hurricane Katrina hit 18 months ago. Officials hope the houses, elevated against flooding and designed to withstand 160-mph winds, will help spark a revival in the devastated neighborhood. The homes resemble the wood-frame shotgun style prevalent in many New Orleans neighborhoods.
· SACRAMENTO --In the end, Sally Lieber's proposal got spanked. After a month of nationwide publicity and much ridicule, the Mountain View, Calif., assemblywoman dropped her idea to criminalize the spanking of young children. She bowed to opposition from fellow lawmakers who worried it made the state legislature look kooky.
· FORT HOOD, Tex. --A soldier who admitted fleeing rather than deploy to Iraq a second time was sentenced to seven months in a military prison and given a bad-conduct discharge. Spec. Mark Wilkerson, 23, who pleaded guilty to desertion and missing troop movement as part of a plea deal, could have been incarcerated for 10 months.
· SANTA FE --Three CD players hidden under a cathedral's pews blared sexually explicit language in the middle of an Ash Wednesday Mass, leading a bomb squad to detonate two of the devices. Authorities determined that the music players were not dangerous and kept the third one to check for clues, said police officials.
· TUCSON -- Spectators at a rodeo parade watched in horror as Brielle Boisvert, 5, was thrown off her mount and trampled by out-of-control horses pulling a wagon. She later died. Brielle was three years below the age minimum in the parade's entry form. Authorities said they will determine whether criminal charges are warranted.
-- From News Services