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Roundtable: Marine Faces Another Murder Trial; Uncovering Financial Scandals; San Diego’s Economy

KPBS Roundtable

Roundtable: Marine Faces Another Murder Trial; Uncovering Financial Scandals; San Diego’s Economy

Audio

Aired 1/31/14

HOST:

Alison St. John

GUESTS:

Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times

Brad Racino, inewsource

Reo Carr, San Diego Business Journal

Marine Sergeant Retried for Iraqi Murder

The Marine Corps has begun the process of retrying Sergeant Lawrence Hutchins, who has already spent six years in military prison for dragging an unarmed Iraqi out of his house and executing him.

A military appeals court reversed his conviction on grounds he was improperly denied a lawyer during a week of questioning after asking for one.

Seven Marines and one Navy corpsman were also convicted of the 2006 crime, but none served more than 18 months and all are now free. As squad leader, Hutchins received the most severe sentence: 11 years.

Hutchins requested new counsel at his arraignment for the retrial this week. He objected to the attorney he was assigned on grounds of conflict of interest. The current chief defense counsel of the Marine Corps ruled against Hutchins in another appeal. Hutchins also objected to the judge in the current trial as tainted by his association with Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, who — it is alleged — made prejudicial comments on the case to the press.

The general court-martial will take place this summer.

Special Feature Dirty Money

All of the background information on campaign contributions illegally funneled from a wealthy Mexican businessman to local candidates.

DIY Campaign Finance Investigations

Last week, an unsealed FBI complaint sent several local reporters searching for information. They wanted to know the name of the mysterious foreign national who attempted to influence San Diego politics by pouring money into various political action committees, or PACs.

Soon, reporters identified not only the Mexican national (Jose Susumo Azano Matsura), but those named as “the straw donor,” (Marc Chase) and "Candidates 1-4" (District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, Rep. Juan Vargas, former Mayor Bob Filner and former mayoral candidate and ex-Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher). They did it by combing through information on donations to PACs that anyone can find — if they know how — beginning with the San Diego City Clerk’s website.

Although this story from inewsource gives readers the know-how to investigate on their own, it is equally — if not more — important to get the information to the public. That happens through a free and vigorous press, which is essential to a democracy.

State of the Union And Of San Diego

In his State of the Union speech Tuesday, President Barack Obama said that even though the economy was growing and jobs being created, there was an urgent necessity to boost wages and strengthen the middle class.

The speech came a few weeks after Oxfam reported that 85 of the world’s wealthiest people own as much wealth as the 3.5 billion poorest, and seven out of 10 people live in countries where economic inequality has increased in the last 30 years.

San Diego is experiencing lower unemployment rates (6.4 percent) than much of the U.S., but has lost jobs in manufacturing and information. The region has made gains in construction, education and the low-paying area of leisure and hospitality. Housing prices rose 19 percent from November 2012 to the same month in 2013. Housing prices are rising moderately.

These are all positive markers, but interim Mayor Todd Gloria noted that San Diego is an expensive city and increasingly unaffordable for many. He recommended that a proposal for a raise in the minimum wage be prepared for the November ballot.

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