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Roundtable: 2,000 U.S. Dead in Afghanistan, Criminal Cases Pose Challenge, No Jail Mail

Tony Perry, Afghanistan War
Roundtable: Afghanistan, Criminal Justice, Jail Mail
GUESTS:Tony Perry, San Diego Bureau Chief, L.A. TimesJW August, Managing Editor, 10NewsTeri Figueroa, reporter, North County Times

Two Thousand U.S. Dead in Afghanistan: The New York Times has calculated that as of this month, 2,000 Americans have died in the 11-year-old conflict in Afghanistan. Marines from Camp Pendleton have born the brunt of the carnage.

Nearly nine years passed before the first 1,000 deaths were reached. The second 1,000 came just 27 months later as fighting became more intense due to the "surge," an influx of some 30,000 U.S. troops.

The Third Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment out of Camp Pendleton has suffered the most casualties. Although there are far fewer Marines in Afghanistan than U.S. Army soldiers, Marines have been dying at nearly twice the rate of the Army, accounting for three of the five hardest-hit units during the surge.


The Third Battalion was sent into Sangin Province in 2010, where they pushed into previously unmolested Taliban-dominated villages. The Battalion lost eight men right away, but wanted to stay.

Now they -- and all coalition troops -- face a new threat: attacks from Afghan security forces.

Local Cases Prove Challenge To Justice System: At his arraignment this week, Armando Perez shouted that he was guilty. He was charged with brutally murdering his estranged wife in a men’s bathroom in City College in October 2010.

The issues in this case revolve not only around the murder, but around San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis’ decision not to prosecute Perez for allegedly kidnapping and raping his wife months earlier. The DA’s office said then and again at Perez's arraignment that it did all it was legally required to do and that it couldn't prove Perez kidnapped his wife beyond a reasonable doubt.

In another tragic case, an 11-year-old East County boy, 10 at the time he murdered a friend, has been declared mentally incompetent to stand trial. Judge Cynthia Bashant ruled that he was not only immature, but his mental health and development had been compromised because of fetal alcohol syndrome.


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JW August, Perez Arraignment

Return To Sender: The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department has decided that jail inmates cannot receive mail except via postcard. The policy also bans anything written or drawn with crayon.

Some 70 cases of attempted drug smuggling (among 5,000 inmates) in stamps on letters and by other methods surfaced in 2011. The Sheriff says that far too much time and personnel are tasked to prevent drug smuggling through the mail. The department made the decision after the same policy in Ventura County survived a lawsuit.

The American Civil Liberties Union has protested the policy as an infringement on free speech and violation of privacy.

KPBS has created a public safety coverage policy to guide decisions on what stories we prioritize, as well as whose narratives we need to include to tell complete stories that best serve our audiences. This policy was shaped through months of training with the Poynter Institute and feedback from the community. You can read the full policy here.