Gonzo's Got Killer Instincts

Culture of life, my fat white ass:

Paul K. Charlton, one of nine U.S. attorneys fired last year, told members of Congress yesterday that Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales has been overzealous in ordering federal prosecutors to seek the death penalty, including in an Arizona murder case in which no body had been recovered.

Justice Department officials had branded Charlton, the former U.S. attorney in Phoenix, disloyal because he opposed the death penalty in that case. But Charlton testified yesterday that Gonzales has been so eager to expand the use of capital punishment that the attorney general has been inattentive to the quality of evidence in some cases -- or the views of the prosecutors most familiar with them.
In one case involving a slain drug supplier whose body was never recovered, Gonzales did not even give Charlton—described by James Comey as "very experienced…smart, very honest and able"—the opportunity to discuss his death penalty recommendations, but instead sent a letter, "simply directing him to seek the death penalty."

Unsurprisingly, overrulings of federal prosecutors' recommendations against using the death penalty have risen during the Bush administration, and, although the overrulings became more frequent under former AG John Ashcroft, they "spiked in 2006, when the number of times Gonzales ordered prosecutors to seek the death penalty against their advice jumped to 21, from three in 2005."

I say "unsurprisingly," because George Bush was the killinest governor in the country while he (ceremoniously) ruled Texas; his state executed 131 prisoners during the five years of his governance, of every last one of whose guilt he was certain: "I'm confident that every person that has been put to death in Texas under my watch has been guilty of the crime charged, and has had full access to the courts." This bold assertion, despite the Chicago Tribune having published a report on an investigation of those 131 death cases that uncovered some alarming information.

In one-third of those cases, the report showed, the lawyer who represented the death penalty defendant at trial or on appeal had been or was later disbarred or otherwise sanctioned. In 40 cases the lawyers presented no evidence at all or only one witness at the sentencing phase of the trial.

In 29 cases, the prosecution used testimony from a psychiatrist who -- based on a hypothetical question about the defendant's past -- predicted he would commit future violence. Most of those psychiatrists testified without having examined the defendant: a practice condemned professionally as unethical.

Other witnesses included one who was temporarily released from a psychiatric ward to testify, a pathologist who had admitted faking autopsies and a judge who had been reprimanded for lying about his credentials.

Asked about the Tribune study, Governor Bush said, "We've adequately answered innocence or guilt" in every case. The defendants, he said, "had full access to a fair trial."

There are two ways of understanding that comment. Either Governor Bush was contemptuous of the facts or, on a matter of life and death, he did not care.
Enter Gonzo. Back in Texas, it was his job on execution day to "give Bush a summary of the case. The summary was the last information standing between an inmate and lethal injection."

Gonzales provided 57 summaries to Bush. Gonzales intended for the memos to be confidential, but author Alan Berlow obtained them under Texas public information law.

Berlow found that Gonzales routinely provided scant summaries to Bush. The summaries, according to Berlow, ''repeatedly failed to apprise the governor of crucial issues in the cases at hand: ineffective counsel, conflict of interest, mitigating evidence, even actual evidence of innocence.''
In one case, a mentally retarded man who had been found guilty of murder was executed despite the jury having never been told he was retarded because his "lawyers failed to find mental health experts" as part of his defense. "In his summary to Bush about [Terry Washington], Gonzales played up the murder and almost entirely omitted the evidence that cried out of a miscarriage of justice. Washington's final 30-page petition for clemency was centered on the issues of ineffective counsel and retardation. On execution day, all that Gonzales presented Bush was a three-page memo in which the only mention of the petition was that it had been rejected by the state Board of Pardons and Paroles." In another case, David Wayne Stoker was executed despite a key state witness having recanted, another witness having perjured him/herself in exchange for reduced charges on his/her own crimes, law enforcement officials having perjured themselves about that deal, and testimony from two unethical medical witnesses, one of whom "had lost his license years before for felony falsifications of evidence." Again, Gonzo left out all of these relevant details speaking to a possible wrongful conviction in his "execution-day memo to Bush."

Again and again, Gonzo failed utterly to convey mitigating factors to Bush when people's lives were on the line. Bush sent them all to their deaths.

So, reading that federal prosecutors have been routinely ordered, under the national leadership of this deadly duo, to seek the death penalty in spite of their recommendations against it doesn’t surprise me in the least. Nor, sadly, does the fact that neither the national news media nor the Democrats could be bothered to make some well-deserved noise about this intimate little death cult of two back when Gonzo was being put through a pathetically gentle ringer on his ascent to top lawman in the land.

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