April 10, 2007
The DOJ went crazy on Georgia
With apologies to the Charlie Daniels Band and one of the all-time great songs (which can be enjoyed at this link) I cannot help but doing a (lousy?) song parody to capture my reaction to the recent remarkable reversal of the Georgia Thompson federal conviction conviction by the Seventh Circuit.
Howard Bashman has been all over this case since the Seventh Circuit's ruling last week (coverage here and here), at Jeralyn at TalkLeft has this terrific post reflecting on the story. I did not pay the story too much attention until today's news that the case has now been drawn into the US Attorney purge investigation. But, after now listening to the Seventh Circuit oral argument audio via this link (mp3 file), I cannot help but express how troubled we all should be that this prosecution went so far on such paper thin facts.
Only by listening to the Seventh Circuit oral argument can one fully appreciate just how crazy the case was against Georgia Thompson. In short, the feds went after Georgia essentially because how she did her job as a state purchasing employee was imperfect. Of course, I am bothered by the decision by the federal prosecutor to pursue such a weak case. But, perhaps more troubling is that none of the critical safeguards against prosecutorial overreaching — the grand jury, the district judge, the trial jury — could see clearly that Georgia's actions were not even clearly questionable, let alone a sound basis for convicting her of a serious federal crime.
As Paul Soglin suggests here, I think we all need to make "Question Authority" a modern mantra.
UPDATE: Mark has a great comment below that which deserves to be highlighted in the body of this post. Here is the heart of the comment:
Our trial judges, our fellow citizens, and our fellow defense counsel are way too servile. They aren't servile to an Administration; they ARE, however, servile to the bureaucratization of criminal law. When President Bush leaves office, this fundamental problem will remain. So using this situation as a chance to bash Bush obscures the problem. It deflects the problem. It avoids the problem. I don't know the solution, but I do know that misdirected political pot shots are part of the problem.
April 10, 2007 at 09:01 PM | Permalink
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» US Attorney Displays Grace from Appellate Law
Although a number of blogs have been chirping about the apparent motivations behind the prosecution of Georgia Thompson (see SLP collecting sources), I noticed that after the Seventh, in record time, ordered her release, the US Attorney issued a press [Read More]
Tracked on Apr 11, 2007 8:03:13 AM
I am a retired newspaper reporter (today's newspaper reporters prefer the more elegant term, journalist) and I have written and read about scandals and investigations for nearly 30 years. This is a classic. I agree with what you say about all the safeguards failing Georgia Thompson. If my past experience is any guide, I expect we will hear dribs and drabs of statements and excuses and revelations for the next month or so that confirm what we all now suspect, and that is that Bush and Rove have effectively turned the DOJ into a bastardized wing of the RNC. The once proud and unassailable DOJ is now run by graduates of Pat Robinson's law school, and staffed by flunkies who gained their prominence by pushing through such questionable measures as Tom DeLay's redistricting plan in Texas.
It took a change in the House of Representatives to be able to lift up the floorboards of DOJ and see the vermin at work, and now I'm wondering how many other areas of rot and stink are lurking in the Federal government after six years of George W. Bush.
Posted by: JayMagoo | Apr 10, 2007 11:32:14 PM
Why is the district judge not taking more heat for this? Everyone seems to be bashing Steven Biskupic, calling him a Bush lackey, but didn't he get a conviction with his "flimsy" evidence. Maybe he was pressured into prosecuting the matter, but he did it with enough evidence to convince someone that she was guilty...
Posted by: LonesomeClerk | Apr 11, 2007 8:33:05 AM
It would be nice, particularly for those on the left, to think that this case is about the Bush Administration. But it's not. It's about our criminal-justice system. The grand jury failed. The trial judge failed. The petit jury failed. Defense counsel failed.
These parties are all supposed to be a check on the prosecutor, yet none performed that function. Why? That's a much tougher problem than "Get rid of W."
Our trial judges, our fellow citizens, and our fellow defense counsel are way too servile. They aren't servile to an Administration; they ARE, however, servile to the bureaucratization of criminal law. When President Bush leaves office, this fundamental problem will remain. So using this situation as a chance to bash Bush obscures the problem. It deflects the problem. It avoids the problem.
I don't know the solution, but I do know that misdirected political pot shots are part of the problem.
Posted by: Mark | Apr 11, 2007 11:04:50 AM
Let’s point to a very specific problem. Obviously, at some point, the District Court judge denied a motion to dismiss. Was he that unaware of the law, or predisposed to rule for the government that he ignored the merits of the motion?
Posted by: S. COTUS | Apr 11, 2007 1:16:57 PM
The speed with which the 7th Circuit acted in this case is stunning. The only place I've ever seen the appellate court system act so swiftly is in television dramas.
The fact that the entire appellate panel was convinced that this was a travesty of justice speaks volumes.
Posted by: ohwilleke | Apr 11, 2007 5:03:52 PM
ohwilleke, I respectfully disagree. Why did they wait until oral argument? They could have granted her bail. They didn’t. They could have summarily reversed. They didn’t.
Posted by: S.cotus | Apr 12, 2007 10:28:48 AM
Very interesting blog. I think that the cure to this is UNITY.
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