Monday, July 30, 2007

The arrogance of the DOJ knows no bounds

On June 27th, a hearing was held before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil Rights. Oversight of capital punishment was the topic. According to Senator Feingold, it was the first such oversight hearing in over 6 years. Given the volatile nature of this issue, It's not surprising this hearing quickly turned into a debate on the policy. For the most part, I thought the testimony recycled information. Former U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona, Paul Charlton's testimony left me speechless. He testified about the last capital case he worked before he was forced to resign. He discussed the case U.S. v. Rios, a RICO case. The case centers around a methamphetamine dealer who is accused of killing his supplier. Charlton feels seeking the death penalty in this case is very suspect. AG Gonzales disagreed, and authorized the death penalty. Charlton's feelings are well founded. He stated that there is no forensic evidence in this case, NONE. All evidence is coming from individuals who have made plea bargains. There isn't even a body in this case. To make things worse, the location of the body is known. The AG will not authorize the $500,000-1,000,000 necessary to exhume the body from the landfill it is buried in. Even more disturbing is the amount of time given to this decision. Mike Elston, Chief of Staff for DAG Paul McNulty told Charlton that the DAG spent a considerable amount of time with the AG on this issue, perhaps 5-10 minutes. This is certainly an insufficient amount of time to decide whether someone should be put on trial for their life, especially given the facts of this case. Charlton believes he was forced to resign because of this case, and I find it very difficult to argue with that contention. Whether it be drug policy or crime policy in general, out of touch federal officials substituting their judgment for that of local people with intimate knowledge is very wrong. Regardless of one's position on capital punishment, it should be easy to see why this is a prosecution that should never get near a jury as a capital case. Transcript of Paul Charlton's testimony


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