WASHINGTON -- Alarm has been spread through Louisiana legal circles that Hurricane Katrina's inundation of courts and law enforcement records in up to eight parishes (counties) could force release of criminal defendants.
This prospect was raised in questions by Southern University Law Center professor Michelle Ghetti in an e-mail to judges and lawyers. She asked these questions about Louisiana criminal defendants: "What happens when the cases have been destroyed? Will the guilty be released upon the communities? Will the innocent not be able to prove their innocence?"
Only a few feet of standing water can ruin evidence, Ghetti wrote, because most files are kept in basements or lower floors of courthouses.
WHO INVESTIGATES KATRINA?
While House Republican leaders were discussing a bipartisan, bicameral investigation of how government handled Hurricane Katrina, they were surprised by an announcement from Republican Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia that he would conduct his own hearings.
Davis earlier used his House Government Reform Committee chairmanship to look into alleged steroid abuse by baseball stars. But House Majority Leader Tom DeLay made clear Davis would not have a free field on the Gulf Coast disaster. Davis was told, however, he would be considered as chairman of a bipartisan Senate-House task force.
The task force was proposed in reaction to Democratic demands for an outside commission on Katrina along the lines of the 9-11 investigation. Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leaders of Congress, immediately protested creating a bipartisan commission without Democrats notified in advance.
Arch Moore, the 82-year-old two-time Republican governor of West Virginia, is quietly urging his daughter, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, to challenge Democrat Robert Byrd, senior member of the U.S. Senate, for re-election.
Republican leaders regard the 87-year-old Byrd as newly vulnerable. The first television advertisement for the 2006 election cycle by the National Republican Senatorial Committee was an anti-Byrd spot. However, the only Republican given a chance to win is Capito, a third-term House member who has been reported reluctant to run for the Senate.
A footnote: National Republican leaders have not given up on North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven deciding to oppose Sen. Kent Conrad, the Senate Budget Committee's top Democrat. If Hoeven does not run, there is no viable Republican candidate.
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