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Illegal Immigrants Target in Rash of Shootings as They Cross

Three illegal immigrants were shot to death Thursday and three others wounded near Tucson, Ariz., after gunmen accosted them as they traveled north from the Mexican border, the authorities said.

The shooting came a day after gunmen wearing ski masks and carrying assault-style rifles robbed 18 people who had crossed illegally on Wednesday 70 miles to the south, near Sasabe. On Jan. 28 a man driving illegal immigrants from the border several miles from the scene of Thursday’s killings was ambushed by armed men and shot to death as the migrants fled.

Federal and local authorities were investigating whether the spate of shootings was related.

Illegal immigrants crossing the border often encounter bandits, armed civilian patrols and rival smugglers bent on robbing or stopping them.

The border violence has been particularly acute in Arizona, which in recent years has become the busiest crossing area for illegal immigrants.

Judge Imposes Death in Killing of North Dakota Student

A convicted sex offender was formally sentenced to death on Thursday in the abduction and murder of a North Dakota college student as she left a shopping center in 2003.

It was the first time that a death sentence was handed down in North Dakota in nearly a century. The state no longer has the death penalty, but it is allowed in federal cases. The case was heard in U.S. District Court in Fargo, N.D., because the victim, Dru Sjodin, was taken across state lines.

Sjodin was a 22-year-old student at the University of North Dakota when she disappeared from the parking lot of a shopping center in Grand Forks in November 2003. In April 2004, her body was found in a ravine near Crookston, Minn., naked from the waist down. She had been beaten and raped and her throat was slit, said Drew H. Wrigley, the U.S. attorney who prosecuted the case.

Last August, a jury convicted Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., 53, of Crookston, of kidnapping resulting in the death of a woman. Rodriguez had been released six months earlier after serving 20 years in prison for other assaults against women.

NBC’s Russert Wraps Case For Prosecution in Libby Trial

The prosecution finished presenting its case in the perjury trial of I. Lewis Libby Jr. on Thursday, leaving his defense lawyers to try to undo the government’s contention that Libby lied under oath during an investigation into the leak of a CIA officer’s identity.

Libby’s legal team will begin with a parade of Washington journalists as witnesses for the defense when the proceedings resume Monday. But lawyers for Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, left it a mystery as to whether they would call the two star attractions on their witness list: Cheney and Libby himself.

The last day of the prosecution’s case was largely consumed with an intense battle of wills between Libby’s chief defense lawyer, Theodore V. Wells Jr., and the final prosecution witness, Tim Russert of NBC News. Before the jurors left for a long weekend, they were bombarded as they have been each day with a fast-moving and complex torrent of information.