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Waiting for Furrow

Legal maneuvering and a postponement have kept the alleged Granada Hills shooter from his day in court.

by Tom Tugend

August 10, 2000 | 8:00 pm

Buford Furrow  is led off after his arrest for the JCC shootings and the murder of mail carrier Joseph Ileto. Photo from Reuters

Buford Furrow is led off after his arrest for the JCC shootings and the murder of mail carrier Joseph Ileto. Photo from Reuters

A year and a day after Buford O. Furrow Jr. allegedly burst into the North Valley Jewish Community Center, spraying the lobby with 70 bullets from a 9mm semiautomatic assault weapon, the case is slowly winding its way through the federal legal system - very slowly.

Furrow, 38, is accused of wounding three young boys, a teenage counselor and a receptionist at the Jewish center and killing U.S. mail carrier Joseph Ileto on the same day.

The decision to seek the death penalty, approved by U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, brings into play numerous legal moves by the prosecution and defense, which automatically delay the beginning of the trial.Originally set to start on Nov. 14, the trial date has been postponed to Feb. 6 of next year by U.S. District Judge Nora Manella, who will preside over the case, to give Furrow's lawyer additional preparation time. The judge noted that 5,000 pages of documents had already been turned over to the defense, and there could be more.

The public defenders representing Furrow must tell the court by Aug. 18 whether they plan to invoke an insanity plea for their client, who has spent time in a mental hospital in Washington state.Furrow, a self-acknowledged white supremacist and member of the Aryan Nations, turned himself in to the FBI office in Las Vegas the day after the shooting rampage and allegedly told agents that his attack on the Jewish center was "a wake-up call to Americans to kill Jews."

Although Furrow doesn't have enough money to hire his own lawyers, he is assured highly capable legal representation by the federal public defender's office, which has assigned two of its top attorneys to the case. They are deputy public defender Sean Kennedy and senior litigator Marilyn Bednarski, who will be joined by an expert on the death penalty from Seattle.

For the prosecution, the U.S. attorney's office will field two seasoned attorneys, Michael Terrell of the Major Crimes Unit and Michael Gennaco, head of the Civil Rights Division.

Prosecution and defense attorneys are unusually tight-lipped and security conscious about the case, referring all calls to their office spokespersons. Even the site of Furrow's incarceration, believed to be the downtown Metropolitan Detention Center, could not be confirmed.

Should Furrow be sentenced to death, it is questionable whether the sentence would be carried out. Currently, there are 22 federal prisoners on death row at the penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind., including Oklahoma City bomber Timothy J. McVeigh, but there has not been a single federal execution in nearly 40 years.

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