Today's Papers

Courthouse Triple Homicide

The New York Times leads with, while the rest of the papers front, the killing of a judge, a court reporter, and a sheriff’s deputy in an Atlanta courthouse by a man who was standing trial on rape charges. The suspect, Brian Nichols, managed to overpower the sheriff’s deputy, who was escorting him to trial, and steal her gun. After leaving the deputy critically injured, Nichols went into the courtroom where his trial was scheduled to take place and shot the judge and the court reporter. While escaping, he shot and killed a sheriff’s deputy who was chasing him outside the courthouse. Nichols is still at-large and a manhunt has begun across several states. The Washington Post leads with new documents that reveal an Indian tribe and a gambling company made donations to a public policy group that paid for most of a $70,000 trip to Britain by House Majority Leader Tom Delay, R-Texas, his wife, and two members of his staff. Although the trip was sponsored by the Washington-based National Center for Public Policy Research, a source told the WP that a lobbyist currently under investigation, Jack Abramoff, came up with the idea for the trip and solicited donations from his two clients. House ethics regulations prohibit lawmakers from taking trips paid by lobbyists. (The Los Angeles Times fronted an indepth story  Thursday that looked into the trips to Britain, focusing on two other House members as well as Abramoff.)

The LAT leads with the latest agreement between the United States and several European countries on how they will proceed in negotiations with Iran. President Bush announced the United States will drop its objection to Iran joining the World Trade Organization and will allow the country to buy some spare parts for civilian aircrafts. In exchange, France, Germany, and Britain have vowed to impose sanctions on Iran via the U.N. Security Council if it breaks its promise to stop enriching uranium. Iranian officials have not welcomed the development and one Iranian negotiator told the LAT that the proposal is “very much insignificant.” The WP goes inside with U.S. and European officials saying they are willing to wait until Iran holds elections in June and a new government is set up before they receive a final answer on this new negotiating strategy.

All the papers mention that the triple homicide raised questions about security in the Fulton County courthouse. Earlier this week Nichols had been found with two homemade weapons in his shoes, which resulted in a request for heightened security during his trial. Taking a look at the national reverberations of the story, the LAT fronts a sidebar describing that many judges around the United States are feeling worried about their security, particularly since the shootings in Atlanta occurred less than two weeks after a Chicago judge’s husband and mother were killed. The WP mentions that on average 700 threats are reported every day against judicial officials.    

The NYT fronts details on Army reports obtained by Human Rights Watch that provide the first official account of how two Afghan prisoners who were being held under U.S. custody in Afghanistan died as a result of abuses by American soldiers. Both prisoners were chained to the ceiling, and in one case, a U.S. soldier is accused of beating a prisoner over a period of five days and eventually killing him by “destroying his leg muscle tissue with repeated unlawful knee strikes.” The reports also state that abuses at the prison extend beyond these two prisoners.

The LAT and NYT front a lawsuit filed by insurance company Blue Cross/Blue Shield against several clinics, doctors, and others in California that were allegedly part of a scheme to provide unnecessary medical procedures to patients with insurance. Participants in this “rent-a-patient” scam allegedly hired recruiters to convince people to fly to California for several medical treatments in return for cash, vacations, and cosmetic surgery. Recruiters were paid $2,000 to $4,000 for each person they brought in and patients were paid $200 to $2,000 each to go through with the medical procedures. Blue Cross/Blue Shield claims doctors filed more than $1 billion in claims under the scam.

The NYT reefers, while the LAT and WP stuff, the British Parliament approval of a new antiterrorism law put forth by Prime Minister Tony Blair. The bill, which would allow terror suspects to be held under tight house arrest without trial, passed after a long fight only after Blair and his supporters agreed the law could be revised or rejected in one year. Meanwhile, eight prisoners who had been held without trial for up to three and a half years under a law that was declared illegal by Britain’s highest court were released yesterday. The former prisoners were released into a type of house arrest where they will continue to be under constant surveillance and face restrictions on where and when they can leave their home as well as who they can talk to and see.

The WP fronts word that despite President Hosni Mubarak’s claims that Egypt will hold open presidential elections, the first politician who said would run against him is now in jail. Ayman Nour, a member of Parliament, was arrested in late January on charges that he submitted forged documents to the government when he was registering his political party late last year. Egyptian officials insist the case has nothing to do with politics and is a criminal matter.

The NYT and WP go inside with news that Karen Hughes, a long-time adviser to President Bush, will be nominated to the post of undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs. Assuming she gets confirmed, Hughes will be in charge of improving the image of the United States abroad, particularly in the Muslim world. The position has been empty since last summer.

The WP fronts, while the rest of the papers go inside with, the announcement by Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Md., that he will not seek re-election when his current term expires in 2006. Sarbanes will retire after serving 30 years in the Senate.

The NYT and WP mention that a judge in California ordered three online reporters to reveal their sources to Apple Computer. The company brought a lawsuit against the reporters demanding they reveal who leaked them information about a new music software the company considers to be a trade secret. Although many were watching the case to see what it would mean for online reporters and bloggers in the future, the judge skirted the issue of whether the writers could be considered journalists. Instead, the judge equated releasing proprietary information to stealing.