November 21, 2004

No Mercy

Alberto Gonzales' record in Texas, as legal counsel to then-Gov. George W. Bush, should give heart to those who believe our aim in the war on terror should be to try to cow our enemies into submission:
Consider the case of Terry Washington. Gonzales's three-page summary misleadingly suggests that there was doubt about the central issue in Washington's plea for life: the fact that he was brain-damaged and mentally retarded. But the state of Texas did not dispute the fact that Washington was retarded. Gonzales doesn't inform Bush that Washington's incompetent attorney never called a mental health expert to testify, never advised the jury that his client was retarded, or that he had an IQ between 58 and 69 and had been beaten with whips, water hoses, extension cords, fan belts and wire hangers as a child.
No emboldening enemies here. Competence, however, might be a bit of an issue:
In the case of David Wayne Stoker, there were enough red flags for a May Day parade, yet Gonzales spotted none of them. For starters, a federal appellate judge had concluded that the state's star witness was just as likely the murderer as Stoker. Gonzales's 18-sentence summary also failed to note that a key witness recanted after Stoker's conviction (explaining that he'd been pressured by the prosecution to present perjured testimony) and that the state's star witness received a financial reward for fingering Stoker, had felony drug and weapons charges dropped and therefore had an obvious motive for accusing Stoker. Gonzales also didn't tell Bush that this witness and two police witnesses lied under oath at trial, that the state's expert medical witness pleaded guilty to seven felonies involving falsified evidence and that the state's psychiatric witness, whose testimony was essential to securing a death sentence, never even interviewed Stoker. The psychiatrist had since been expelled from the American Psychiatric Association for repeatedly providing unethical testimony in murder cases.
It's hard to improve on Ashcroft's counterterrorism record—0 for 5,000 prosecution at last count—but Gonzales, bless his heart, just might have what it takes! On the other hand, if you really wanted to mount a defense of this sort of behavior in the context of terrorism, you could point out—as George Friedman of Stratfor did—that Ashcroft's erratic pattern of arrests and detentions had gone a long ways towards disrupting al Qaeda (in the United Stats, at least)—since al Qaeda would never be sure exactly who we were arresting or what we were finding out, especially given our apparent propensity for torture. The same goes for Abu Ghraib, I guess. That's one theory, and it would sure kink up the civil liberties debate, but no one has been able to show whether it's true or not.
-- Brad Plumer 7:15 PM || ||