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Justice Is Mute

Superior Court Judge Michael Alfred sided with Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall in her ongoing fight to prevent the local media from reviewing the paper trail that led her to suspend three prosecutors and fire a fourth in relation to the investigation into the homicide of Dr. Brian Stidham.

While Alfred said a handful of the documents involved in the case were public records, he said the bulk of what media outlets were pursuing was "purely personal in nature" and that "some interviews involved people against whom no personnel actions or other accusations of wrongdoing were lodged."

Although LaWall has declined to discuss her disciplinary actions against Brad Roach, Janet Altschuler, Nicki DiCampli and Paul Skitzki, the reasons stem from relationships that members of her staff had with either Brad Schwartz, who stands accused of paying a hitman to kill Stidham, his former medical partner, or Lourdes Lopez, a former prosecutor in LaWall's office who had an on-again, off-again romantic relationship with Schwartz. The ties to LaWall's office were tight enough to force LaWall to declare a conflict of interest and pass the case off to the Pinal County Attorney's Office.

Range legal analyst Chris Limberis suggests that LaWall's victory could be short-lived, because she'll likely have to show her hand at upcoming appeals by Roach, Dicampli and Skitzki of the disciplinary actions before the county's Merit Commission, which are scheduled throughout 11 days in April. Altschuler, who has requested that her hearing be closed to the public, will make her appearance before the Merit Commission in June.


Touchdown!

The plucky Huygens space probe successfully touched down on the surface of Titan, beaming a steady stream of data some 821 million miles (or more than a billion kilometers!) back home to the European Space Agency headquarters in Germany, where a team of UA scientists are now unlocking the secrets of the mysterious moon of Saturn.

Happily, the Descent Imager-Spectral Radiometer designed by UA prof Martin Tomasko worked like a charm, sending back photos and other data for the big brains to sort out. And get this: It takes just one hour and seven minutes for a signal from Huygens to reach Earth. We've spent more time than that on hold when we call the cable company. Take a look at Huygens' vacation snapshots at http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov.

One big surprise, according the UA News Service: Huygens appears to have landed with a splat in some kind of mud--which means that when we run out of mud here on Earth, we'll be able to import all we need from Titan. Although the team anticipated that the batteries would fizzle out after just 15 minutes, the probe continued to transmit data for more than hour.

Other early results show that the thick haze that surrounds Titan extends to about 30 kilometers above the surface.

Huygens was launched from the Cassini space probe, which remains in orbit around Saturn to continue exploring strange new worlds and civilizations.


Slap Shots

A sloppy UA men's basketball team narrowly survived against the University of Southern California last Thursday, Jan. 13, winning 77-68 in a game that saw the stumbling Mustafa Shakur fail to score a single basket in his 21 minutes of play. To fill the gap, Coach Lute Olson brought sophomore Kirk Walters off the bench, ending his red-shirt status. In his debut, Walters scored no points, but did pick up an offensive rebound.

On Saturday, the Wildcats won a nail-biter against UCLA 76-73 with a spectacular three-pointer in the final seconds by Salim Stoudamire, who put it in from the top of the key.

"Usually coach wants me to come off a high post screen, but I didn't want that. I wanted to take my man 1-on-1," said Stoudamire, who was named Pac-10 Player of the Week.

"Salim got it going in the second half and you can see what happens when he gets it going," Olson said after the UCLA game. "When he gets off the screen with the opportunity to shoot the ball, he's on fire."

The Wildcat victory nearly came undone after two UA freshman raced onto the court to celebrate, drawing a technical foul against Arizona, but UCLA Jordan Farmer couldn't make his two free throws.

"We have to work on telling the freshmen not to go on the floor until the game is over," Olson noted.

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