Buford O. Furrow Jr. will be tried first in federal court on charges of murdering a U.S. postal carrier. The state trial of the confessed gunman for the alleged shooting spree at the North Valley Jewish Community Center will be delayed until after the federal case is concluded.
A federal grand jury indicted Furrow Aug. 19 on two charges -- the murder of mail carrier Joseph Ileto and the use of firearms to commit the alleged slaying. Both carry a possible death penalty.
Furrow is due to answer the indictment in court on Monday, Aug. 30.
State prosecutors will not be able to try Furrow on the same charges, but will put him on trial for the attempted murder of five persons, including three children, in the Aug. 10 shooting spree at the North Valley JCC in Granada Hills.
Furrow could get life sentences in the attempted-murder cases because Los Angeles County District Attorney Gil Garcetti plans to charge that the crimes were based on hatred of Jews.
The decision to go first with the federal trial ended a week-long debate between federal and state prosecutors, with the latter citing their greater experience in prosecuting murder charges.
However, law professor and media analyst Laurie Levenson endorsed the order of precedence. She told the Los Angeles Times that, in federal courts, prosecutors automatically win the death penalty if they secure a conviction, while, in state courts, a subsequent penalty trial is required.
The national attention on hate crimes, gun control and terrorism aroused by the Furrow case, the fire bombing of three Sacramento-area synagogues, and the murderous attacks by a white supremacist in the Midwest found expression at a security conference in Sacramento last week.
Speakers at the meeting, convened by the Anti-Defamation League, advised synagogue leaders on basic security precautions and warned of likely future attacks.
Calling for a high degree of alertness, Mike Garner, a Sacramento Police Department bomb technician, said: "This isn't Israel. This isn't Ireland. But a little bit of paranoia is healthy."
The audience also heard warnings by federal experts that hate groups may use the Y2K anxiety and apocalyptic end-of-the- millennium visions as excuses to assault Jews, minorities and homosexuals, the Times reported.
At another event last week, dramatically held at the Orange County jail in Santa Ana, ADL officials released a report that focused on the reportedly fastest-growing white supremacist gang in California.
The Nazi Lowriders are a rapidly rising force in both street crimes and the methamphetamine drug trade, the study warned.
Starting with 28 members in Orange County in 1996, the Nazi Lowriders, within two years, grew to an estimated 1,300 adherents nationwide.
Although gang members hate Jews, Asians and other minorities, their most vicious attacks have been against African-Americans, according to the ADL report.
As a result, Nazi Lowriders are segregated in county jails after repeated violence against black inmates, said Sheriffs Lee Baca of Los Angeles County and Mike Carona of Orange County.
The Times reported that Tom Leyden, a former neo-Nazi skinhead now working for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, described the Lowriders' operations as unique, combining drug-selling expertise with the white supremacist credo of skinhead groups.