Margaret Chiara, a former U.S. attorney in Grand Rapids, Mich., appealed several times to the Justice Department against having to seek the federal death penalty. In hindsight, for her it was a risky business.
No prisoner has been executed in a Michigan case since 1938, but the Bush administration seemed determined to change that.
Indeed, under Attys. Gen. John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales, far more federal defendants have been dispatched to Death Row than under the previous administration. And any prosecutors wishing to do otherwise often find themselves overruled.
The Bush administration has had a long love affair with the death penalty. George W. Bush served only one complete term as Governor of Texas, but his administration allowed 131 prisoners to be put to death. Guilt or innocence seemed to be unimportant.
New York Times:
In one-third of those cases, [a report by the Chicago Tribune] 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's reporting of his record as governor, Bush said, according to NYT, "'We've adequately answered innocence or guilt' in every case. The defendants, he said, 'had full access to a fair trial.'"
The best case scenario is that Bush and company found capital punishment popular and exploited it to create a 'tough on crime' reputation. The worse case scenario is that they're all a bunch of freakin' psychopaths. But there's no way you can argue that anyone involved in any of this was overly concerned with justice.
And one of the people involved was then-legal counsel to then governor-Bush -- Alberto Gonzales. In an article reviewing memos between Gonzales and Bush regarding death penalty cases, Alan Berlow wrote in The Atlantic that 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." Clearly, the idea was the more executions, the better -- guilt or innocence be damned.
Specific cases are unforgivably egregious.
John Dean, FindLaw:
Take the case of Terry Washington, a thirty-three-year-old mentally retarded man with the communications skills of a seven-year-old executed in 1997. Gonzales's clemency memo, according to Berlow, did not even mention his mental retardation, or his lawyer's failure to call, at trial, for the testimony of a mental health expert on this issue. Nor did it mention that the jury never heard about Washington's history of child abuse; he was one of ten children, all of whom "were regularly beaten with whips, water hoses, extension cords, wire hangers, and fan belts."
And plainly, Washington's counsel had been ineffective: his strongest argument was never pressed. (Similarly, with respect to death row inmate Carl Johnson, "Gonzales failed to mention that Johnson's trial lawyer had literally slept through major portions of the jury selection.")
For these reasons, Gonzales' silence about Terry Washington's retardation is both inexplicable and stunning.
This is the typical Bushie attitude -- truth is malleable and justice is just a word. I've written before that this administration reminds me of Raskolnikov in Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment -- people who believe that history's movers and shakers are above the law.
In one hundred, two hundred years, who will remember the name 'Terry Washington?' No one, that's who. But Bush and Gonzales thought they'd go on to rebuild the world. If some Texas retard has to die to help that happen, then some Texas retard has to die. Washington was without consequence. He'll be forgotten and names 'George W. Bush' and 'Alberto Gonzales' will be printed in history books. Screw Terry Washington; he's just another of history's forgotten.
If we look at the Bush administration over the years, we see it again and again; a complete disregard for others. From the Iraq war to outing a CIA operative to the abuse of the death penalty, they do the things they want to do and they don't give a damn if other people live or die because of their actions. There's a reason why Bush invited attacks on US forces with his 'Bring it on' comment -- he doesn't give a a hot bowl what happens to the troops, but he thought it made him look tough.
There's a word for this sort of mindset. The idea that consquences don't exist unless they're personal consquences, the belief that the structures of society -- like justice and law -- are secondary to your own interests, the notion that other people don't matter and their lives are worth less than your own.
That word is 'sociopath.'
Seriously, the more you look at these guys, the more you become convinced that there's something drastically wrong with their heads. It was Gonzales who argued that torture was legal and Bush who argued that it was a great idea. The political career of Alberto Gonzales is probably over. He has no friends in Washington outside of the administration. Bush is another matter.
Bush needs to be impeached. And I don't much care what for -- pick anything. But we can't afford to keep this basket case in the Oval Office.
Technorati tags: politics; law; Texas; Bush and Alberto Gonzales use the death penalty as a political tool -- so much for a 'Culture of Life'