The Justice Department is putting the final touches on regulations that could give Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales important new sway over death penalty cases in California and other states, including the power to shorten the time that death row inmates have to appeal convictions to federal courts.In case you missed the point, Alberto Gonzales will be given the ability to shorten the time that death row inmates have to appeal convictions to federal courts.
How is this happening? Apparently, this is yet another "side-effect" of the reauthorization of the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act (aka USA PATRIOT Act) which was passed in 2001 and reauthorized in 2005. Apparently one of the provisions in that law:
gives the attorney general the power to decide whether individual states are providing adequate counsel for defendants in death penalty cases. The authority has been held by federal judges.The Justice Department is somehow using this provision to craft a rule that would allow Gonzales (after a state requests it) to fast-track the cases of people on death row. The defendant's time period to file an appeal would be cut from a year to six months.
I am against this rule on principle. With something as capricious and uncertain as the death penalty we should not cut down on opportunities to reverse the errors of the legal system. Yet, even if you believe that we ought to have capitol punishment and speed up the process, you cannot possibly believe that Alberto Gonzales should be given this power.
This is the same Alberto Gonzales who had a 25% approval rate in April, the same Alberto Gonzales whose friends refer to him as incompetent. This is the man who Republican Senator Arlen Specter called, "misleading" and who the Senate wants bring perjury charges against.
This is also a man who wrote clemency memos for then Governor Bush which had "a clear prosecutorial bias" according to Alan Berlow of the Atlantic Monthly. Berlow continues to say:
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.This is a man with a poor understanding of the problems with the legal system and a view of the death penalty as panacea for crime.
The Washington Post reports:
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.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.
Gonzales is clearly trigger happy and not a balanced advocate of Justice. This rule would be another blow to Justice that will hurt this country.
If you feel so inclined you can contact the Department of Justice with the following information:
E-mails to the Department of Justice, including the Attorney General, may be sent to AskDOJ@usdoj.gov.
Department of Justice Main Switchboard - 202-514-2000
Correspondence to the Department, including the Attorney General, may be sent to:
- U.S. Department of Justice
- 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
- Washington, DC 20530-0001
This blog is cross-posted from http://poli-think.blogspot.com