WASHINGTON

Soldier seeking new trial in Abu Ghraib conviction

A judge on the U.S. military’s highest court asked Monday whether a “Catch-22” prevented the alleged ringleader of detainee abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq from getting a fair trial in 2005.

Judge James E. Baker raised the question during oral arguments on Army Pvt. Charles A. Graner’s request that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces set aside his conviction and order a new trial.

Graner, 41, of Uniontown, Pa., didn’t attend the 45-minute hearing before the five-judge court.

The former military police corporal is serving a 10-year term at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., for offenses in 2003 that included stacking naked prisoners into a pyramid, knocking one of them out with a punch to the head and ordering prisoners to masturbate while soldiers took pictures.

Graner contends a military judge wrongly refused during a pretrial hearing to order the government to hand over then-classified documents that would show that some of the harsh treatment of detainees reflected “enhanced interrogation techniques” approved by then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

The government maintains that since those documents were released a day after the pretrial hearing, the defense had access to them before the trial, and so there was no error.

PHILADELPHIA

Report: No evidence laptops were used to spy on students

A report commissioned by a suburban Philadelphia school district says there’s no evidence of spying on students through an electronic laptop tracking program.

The independent report indicates that concerns about an online chat captured on the screen of a school-issued computer led to disclosure of the Lower Merion School District’s tracking program. It cites “overzealous and questionable use of technology without any apparent regard for privacy considerations.”

The family of one student alleged privacy violations over webcam images taken at home and sued.

The school district says it secretly activated webcams only to find missing laptops. It acknowledges lax policies led it to capture 56,000 images.

SACRAMENTO, Calif.

Governor vetoes bill to ban smoking at parks, beaches

Cigar-smoking Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed legislation Monday that would have banned smoking at all California state parks and beaches, saying the bill crossed the line of government intrusion.

In a letter to California senators, the governor said state parks and local governments were already permitted to ban smoking on a case-by-case basis.

“There is something inherently uncomfortable about the idea of the state encroaching in such a broad manner on the people of California,” Schwarzenegger wrote to lawmakers.

The author of the bill, state Sen. Jenny Oropeza, D-Long Beach, had argued her bill would help reduce litter along with the threat of wildfires and secondhand smoke. She crafted the legislation so smokers would be allowed to light up in parking lots and at campsites in parks.

Hundreds of communities nationwide have enacted smoking bans at municipal parks and beaches. Maine is the only state to ban smoking at its state beaches. But anti-smoking groups say no state has banned smoking throughout its entire park system.

WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif.

Off-duty officer stops woman after stabbings

A woman who stabbed and wounded four people in a busy Target store Monday afternoon was arrested when an off-duty sheriff’s deputy pulled his gun and ordered the woman to the ground as screaming shoppers fled, authorities said.

Layla Trawick, 34, of West Antioch, Calif., used a butcher’s knife and a carving knife to attack the victims, using both blades at the same time — one in each hand, like in the movie “Psycho,” sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said

A mother holding her baby was stabbed in the neck and was in critical condition, Whitmore said. The baby was unhurt, and all four victims — three women and one man — were expected to survive.

Off-duty sheriff’s Deputy Clay Grant Jr., who was in the next aisle in the store, heard screaming and ran to find the suspect, holding the bloody knives.

He pulled out his department handgun and ordered her to drop the knives, but she ran across the store instead.

Grant chased her across the store before she finally gave up and a store security officer helped the deputy to handcuff the woman.

Trawick was held on $1 million bail on suspicion of attempted murder.

The motive in the stabbings was not immediately clear.

 

— From news service reports