The week at a glance...United States
Washington, D.C. Guantánamo quandary: President Obama has renewed his vow to close the controversial prison at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, amid a growing crisis at the detention camp. More than 100 of the prison’s 166 inmates are currently taking part in a mass hunger strike to protest their indefinite detention at the facility, and last weekend the government was forced to send “medical reinforcements” of nearly 40 Navy nurses, corpsmen, and specialists to the prison. Speaking at a White House press conference this week, Obama—whose previous efforts to close Guantánamo have been blocked by Congress—said he was not surprised there were problems at the camp. “It’s not sustainable,” he said. “The notion that we’re going to keep 100 individuals in no-man’s-land in perpetuity” makes no sense, he added. Most of the inmates are terrorism suspects who are being held without charge. Eighty-six of them have been cleared for transfer to their home nations, but Obama suspended most repatriations in 2010 after the attempted Christmas Day bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner. The U.N. has attacked their continued detention as a clear violation of law, and this week a U.N. spokesman added that the Obama administration’s practice of force-feeding the prisoners is also likely a human-rights violation. Obama rejected that claim, saying that military officials were trying to “manage the situation” the best they could. “I don’t want these individuals to die,” he said.
Philadelphia Abortionist on trial: The jury in the murder trial of Kermit Gosnell, the 72-year-old doctor accused of running a “house of horrors” at his abortion clinic, began deliberations this week after both sides brought the seven-week trial to an emotional close. Prosecutors argue that Gosnell delivered four children alive at his clinic before killing them by cutting their necks in order to sever their spines. He is also accused of giving an abortion patient a fatal overdose. Eight former colleagues have testified to seeing babies move or whine before having their spinal cords cut, but defense lawyer Jack McMahon claimed the fetuses had been injected with a lethal drug before delivery, and that any movement was postmortem spasms. McMahon cast his client as a black doctor serving a poor community and said prosecutors had pursued an “elitist, racist prosecution.”
Baltimore Prison gang: A jailhouse leader pleaded not guilty this week to charges of overseeing a corruption ring involving female correctional officers—four of whom he impregnated. As leader of the Black Guerrilla Family gang, Tavon White, 36, allegedly ran a massive racketeering scheme, which smuggled marijuana, painkillers, and cellphones into prison. A total of 25 defendants face charges in the case. “Anything that get done must go through me,” White is recorded saying in an intercepted phone call. White also allegedly impregnated four of the correctional officers implicated in the indictment, and two of them have his name tattooed on their bodies. According to an affidavit, BGF members preyed on female correctional officers with “low self-esteem” and “insecurities.” Criminal justice expert Martin Horn said the prison system houses “highly manipulative inmates who are in some ways more sophisticated than the staff who are watching them.”
Sanford, Fla. Zimmerman opts for jury: Murder suspect George Zimmerman this week waived his right to a pretrial “Stand Your Ground” hearing, opting instead to go before a full jury over the shooting of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin. Martin, 17, was killed in February 2012 in the gated community where Zimmerman, 29, was neighborhood watch captain. Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty to murder, claiming he shot Martin in self-defense after being physically attacked. Under the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which justifies the use of force in self-defense, Zimmerman could have been freed without trial if the judge believed he’d had reasonable grounds to believe his life was in danger. Zimmerman’s lawyer stated that he and his client would “much rather have the jury address the issue of criminal liability,” but weren’t ruling out using the “Stand Your Ground” defense at trial.
Brandon, Miss. Ricin redux: Authorities have charged a Mississippi man with mailing ricin letters to President Obama, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), and Mississippi Judge Sadie Holland, after releasing their initial suspect, Paul Kevin Curtis, without charge. James Everett Dutschke, a martial arts instructor with ties to Curtis, Wicker, and Holland, was charged this week with “knowingly developing, producing,” and stockpiling the poison ricin for use as a weapon. If convicted, Dutschke faces life imprisonment. Curtis and Dutschke had discussed exposing an alleged conspiracy to sell body parts on the black market, but the pair fell out, prompting speculation that the letters—signed “I am KC”—were an attempt to frame Curtis. Dutschke, who this month pleaded not guilty in a state court to two child molestation charges, denies the accusations. “I’m a patriotic American,” he said. “I don’t have any grudges against anybody.”