USA

By a 5-to-4 vote, the Supreme Court struck down the death penalty for persons who committed crimes before age 18. The decision not only eliminates capital punishment as a sentencing option for future crimes, it also throws out the death sentences of about 70 juvenile murderers. Since the court previously had exempted 15-year-olds from the penalty, the ruling extends the same protection to 16- and 17-year-olds.

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who is blamed for scores of car bombings, kidnappings, and beheadings in Iraq, has been contacted by Osama bid Laden in the past two months about planning attacks against the US, including on American soil, the Associated Press reported. Its story cited intelligence shared in a classified bulletin sent by the Homeland Security Department to state security directors last weekend. A spokesman said his department has no plans at this point to raise the threat level based on "nonspecific information."

Federal Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow returned to her Chicago home Monday to discover the bodies of her husband and elderly mother, both of whom had been shot execution-style, the Chicago Tribune reported. Police did not indicate whether the shootings were related to a failed murder plot against the judge by white supremacist Matthew Hale two years ago. In a copyright case, Lefkow had ruled that Hale could not use the name World Church of the Creator for his group, a decision that prosecutors said so angered him that he solicited an undercover FBI agent to kill the judge. Hale awaits sentencing.

A federal district court judge in Spartanburg, S.C., ordered the government Monday to bring charges against "dirty bomb" suspect Jose Padilla within 45 days or else let him go. Padilla, who was designated an "enemy combatant" by President Bush in 2002, has been held in military custody for more than 2- 1/2 years. The Justice Department, which plans to appeal the ruling, claims that Padilla received explosives training from Al Qaeda and sought to blow up hotels and apartments with a radiological device on his return to the US.

Human rights lawyers were expected to file a lawsuit - perhaps against Defense Secretary Rumsfeld - on behalf of eight men who claim they sustained physical and psychological injuries at the hands of US military personnel while detained in Iraq and Afghanistan. None of the plaintiffs was charged with a crime.

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