Thursday, June 28, 2007

On Darkness And Death Penalties

Today's Washington Post describes yet another aspect of the sick, septic core that is our Federal government; and yet another instance of the rot infesting the Department of Justice. The article by Amy Goldstein describes how the United States Attorney for Arizona, Paul Charlton, was fired for properly exercising his ethical prosecutorial discretion in relation to death penalty cases in his jurisdiction.

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.
Charlton said he believed the case, which has not yet gone to trial, did not warrant the death penalty because police and prosecutors lacked forensic evidence -- including a gun, DNA or the victim's body. He said that the body was evidently buried in a landfill and that he asked Justice Department officials to pay $500,000 to $1 million for its exhumation.

The department refused, Charlton said. And without such evidence, he testified, the risk of putting the wrong person to death was too high.

Charlton said that in prior cases, Ashcroft's aides had given him the chance to discuss his recommendations against the death penalty, but that Gonzales's staff did not offer that opportunity. He instead received a letter, dated May 31, 2006, from Gonzales, simply directing him to seek the death penalty.

Charlton testified that he asked Justice officials to reconsider and had what he called a "memorable" conversation with Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty. Michael J. Elston, then McNulty's chief of staff, called Charlton to relay that the deputy had spent "a significant amount of time on this issue with the attorney general, perhaps as much as five to 10 minutes," and that Gonzales had not changed his mind. Charlton said he then asked to speak directly with Gonzales and was denied.

Last August, D. Kyle Sampson, then Gonzales's chief of staff, sent Elston a dismissive e-mail about the episode that said: "In the 'you won't believe this category,' Paul Charlton would like a few minutes of the AG's time." The next month, Charlton's name appeared on a list of prosecutors who should be fired, which Sampson sent to the White House.

As an attorney, it is hard to envision a more gross and complete dereliction of ethical and moral duties than described here on the part of Alberto Gonzales and his inexperienced, unfit senior staff. Every one of them should be disbarred for life. Hardly surprising though; after all, Alberto Gonzales earned his stripes finding ways for Bush to execute people in Texas. "Culture of life" my ass, these despicable, pathetic excuses for human beings don't give a damn about human life whether it is in the criminal justice system, the rotting aftermath of Katrina, the young American soldiers in Iraq or the citizens of that country perishing as a result of our invasion and occupation.

There is nothing but darkness in our Federal government, whether it is the Department of Justice scandals, the decimation of our Constitution, Cheney, Bush, our warmongering foreign policy or any other visible facet. It is a giant black hole sucking the essence of our country and the hopes of the world into a void of despair. And thus we come to the discussion engendered by my fellow bloggers here in the last few days regarding the value of the internet, and the ability of bloggers to freely and openly access it. The blogosphere, especially the progressive segment, is the growing ray of light that is the counter-force to the darkness. The main stream media is slowly coming around, and it is because of the forces generated by the blogosphere and determined activists and writers like the incredible contributors to Watching Those We Chose and so many other blogs.

The awakening and change in attitude and direction being brought by the participants in this effort is palpable. An acceleration and re-doubling of the effort is critical. We are individually expendable; the ideals and values we fight for are not. I read with profound sadness the passing of our compatriot, the Mandarin. I did not have the pleasure of knowing the Mandarin, but I can sense the measure of his character, values and passions by his association with this blog. So let the Mandarin, and the values he lived for and passed with, continue on and flourish through our resolute efforts to restore light to the darkness that has encroached upon us.