Thursday, January 06, 2005


Here we go again

Personally, I like Alberto Gonzales, who's up for the position of attorney general. But on the other hand, a lot of other people don't, most of which are the same people who believe criminals shouldn't be punished, and that people convicted of crimes more than likely didn't do it.
In 1995, a one-eyed drifter named Henry Lee Lucas was headed for execution by injection in a Texas prison for the murder of an unnamed woman, one of hundreds he confessed to killing in a crime spree lasting more than a decade.

The task of recommending whether then-Gov. George W. Bush should grant a reprieve or commute Lucas's death sentence fell to Alberto R. Gonzales, Bush's counsel. In a memo to Bush dated March 13, 1995, Gonzales marshaled a case for Lucas's guilt. He noted that Lucas had given a sheriff a drawing of the victim, and attached a record of Lucas's eight other Texas murder convictions, each of which led to lengthy or life prison sentences.

Left out of Gonzales's summary was any mention of a 1986 investigation by the Texas attorney general's office that concluded that Lucas had not killed the woman, and that he had falsely confessed to numerous killings in an effort to undermine the veracity of his confessions to the crimes he did commit.

While the six-page memo factually summarizes Lucas's court appeals, "it does not really address in any way . . . all the questions that were raised about his guilt," said Jim Mattox, the Texas attorney general from 1983 to 1991, who instigated an investigation of police conduct in the case. He said that if the memo had been prepared for him, he would have chastised the author "for allowing me to make a decision on partial information."

Senate hearings today on Gonzales's nomination to become the next U.S. attorney general are expected to focus on his work as White House counsel. But his memos for Bush on Texas clemency matters illustrate how Gonzales approached another momentous task: endorsing the taking of a life.

I've worked on a number of death penalty cases, and I can tell you first hand that if we're putting someone to death, it's because we have the evidence to prove it. I've sat through more debates and listened to more pundits talk about the death penalty than you can imagine, and one thing is always made apparent to me: These people dislike the death penalty because they believe it's unfair to take a life, and claim moral superiority because of that opinion. Now, mark my words --- if these people fell subject to any of these vicious murderers we have to deal with on a daily basis, and see their families slaughtered, their children abused, their friends murdered, or any number of incidents that I could fill a book with, they would change their opinion about it in a second.

It's our job to prevent that from happening. Believe me, I can't think of anyone in the criminal justice system who wants to see any other innocent human being harmed in any way. But when you take away the tools we use to do our jobs, the threat of violence increases, and in turn, we get blamed for it.

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