Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Excessive sentences

Our dear leader, loath to impose excessive sentences on anyone, as demonstrated in his commutation of the sentence of I. Lewis Libby, apparently has no such concern for the innocent Pashtun goatherd caught up in the War on Terror net that dropped him in Guantanamo, where he awaits notification of the charge on which he has been imprisoned, lo, these past five years.

Or, as Phillip Carter recently reminded your blogstress, death was rarely deemed too excessive a sentence for those condemned during George Bush's capital campaign as the chief executive of the great State of Texas. Here's Carter in 2004 in Slate:

The state of Texas executed 150 men and two women during Bush's six-year tenure as governor--a rate unmatched by any other state in modern U.S. history. As governor, Bush had statutory power to delay executions and the political power to influence the state Board of Pardons and Paroles to commute them entirely, where there was a procedural error, cause for mercy, or a bona fide claim of innocence. Then-Gov. Bush assigned [Alberto] Gonzales [then the governor's general counsel; now U.S. attorney general] a critical role in the clemency process--asking him to provide a legal memo on the morning of each execution day outlining the key facts and issues of the case at hand. According to Alan Berlow, who obtained Gonzales' memoranda after a protracted legal fight with the state of Texas and wrote about them in the July/August 2003 issue of the Atlantic Monthly, Gonzales' legal skills fell far short of the mark that one might expect for this serious task:
A close examination of the Gonzales memoranda suggests that Governor Bush frequently approved executions based on only the most cursory briefings on the issues in dispute. In fact, in these documents Gonzales 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.
On the basis of these memos, Gov. Bush allowed every single execution--save one--to go forward in his state. It's not clear whether Bush directed Gonzales to provide such superficial and conclusory legal research, or whether Gonzales did so of his own accord. Regardless, the point remains that the White House's new nominee to head the Justice Department turned in work that would have barely earned a passing grade in law school, let alone satisfy the requirements of a job in which life and death were at stake. Perhaps more important, these early memos from Texas revealed Gonzales' startling willingness to sacrifice rigorous legal analysis to achieve pre-ordained policy results at the drop of a Stetson.

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