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Seasoned Death Penalty Attorney Agrees to Defend Arellano-Felix

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Aired 4/19/09

A seasoned death penalty attorney has agreed to help defend suspected Mexican drug cartel leader Francisco Javier Arellano-Felix who's being tried in San Diego. The case could be San Diego's first capital punishment case. KPBS Reporter Amy Isackson has details.

Arizona attorney Larry Hammond initially said he would not participate in the case. He said the trial schedule was too aggressive. He said doing capital cases is a financial drain. Hammond says his salary drops $265 per hour on court appointed cases. However, three weeks ago, Hammond says he consulted his conscience and his colleagues and changed his mind.

Hammond: To have a case in which there are multiple defendants -- all of them charged with serious crimes that are identical and yet only two are subject to the death penalty --the irrationality of that is troublesome to me and my colleagues.

Suspected cartel leader Javier Arellano-Felix and one of his alleged lieutenants could face the death penalty. However, two other suspected cartel leaders who were extradited from Mexico do not. Mexico's extradition rules prohibit capital punishment. The case is back in court today. Amy Isackson, KPBS News.

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