JCC shooting case: One year later


LOS ANGELES, Aug. 7 (JTA) — It’s been a year since Buford Furrow Jr. allegedly burst into the North Valley Jewish Community Center here and started shooting, and the case against him is still slowly winding its way through the legal system.

Furrow, 38, is accused of wounding three young boys, a teen-age counselor and a receptionist at the Jewish center on Aug. 10, 1999, with 70 bullets from a semiautomatic assault weapon. He is also accused of 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, brought into play numerous legal moves by the prosecution and defense, which automatically delayed the beginning of the trial.

Originally set to start on Nov. 14, the trial date was postponed to Feb. 6 of next year by U.S. District Judge Nora Manella to give Furrow’s lawyer additional time to prepare. 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 the state of Washington.

Furrow, a 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 legal representation by the federal public defender’s office, which has assigned two of its top attorneys to the case.

Should Furrow be sentenced to death, it is questionable whether the sentence would be carried out. There has not been a single federal execution in the United States in nearly 40 years.

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