January 07, 2005

Alberto R Gonzales: Feeding Garbage to the President

[Ed: I'm resurrecting this post I wrote about Alberto Gonzales in 2003 because of what it says about Bush that he uses people like Gonzales who are so willing to mislead him.]

Bush and the Death Penalty

When Bush was the governor of Texas, 152 people were executed under his watch. As governor, he was responsible for reviewing every case and deciding whether or not there was sufficient grounds for clemency. Throughout his six years, in only one case did he think perhaps there was sufficient cause to intervene, and in that case, there was proof that the accused had not been in the state during the time of the crime. In this month's Atlantic Monthly, an article talks about the evidence that Bush used when reviewing the cases of the prisoners the morning of their scheduled execution and what information his legal counsel, Alberto R. Gonzales presented to him.

Alan Berlow requested and obtained the memorandum that Gonzales prepared for Bush for 57 of the death-penalty cases. Berlow's review of this memorandum shows that the cases Gonzales prepared ignored critical data and extenuating information that might have led Bush to recommend clemancy. As Gonzales is considered to be one of the leading candidates for nomination to the Supreme Court should a vacancy occur while Bush is President, the way he performed this role is important to examine. It appears that rather than "bothering" Bush with information that might raise troubling questions about whether the death-penalty was appropriate, Gonzales provided material that was prosecutorial in nature and so reinforced the notion that the penalty was justified.

This past week the Supreme Court overturned a death penalty conviction for a Maryland man which has eery similarities to one of the cases Bush did not find sufficiently troubling. From the Maryland case:

The high court said two inexperienced Baltimore County public defenders failed their client, a borderline retarded man, because they didn't tell jurors that he was severely sexually abused as a child. If jurors had known of the abuse, they might not given Kevin Wiggins a life sentence instead of sending him to death row, the majority said.

In Texas, the case of Terry Washington was another where mental retardation and severe abuse were relevant factors that should have been considered:

Most important, Gonzales failed to mention that Washington's mental limitations, and the fact that he and his ten siblings were regularly beaten with whips, water hoses, extension cords, wire hangers, and fan belts, were never made known to the jury, although both the district attorney and Washington's trial lawyer knew of this potentially mitigating evidence. (Washington did not testify at his trial or his sentencing.)

So, it appears that Bush made his decisions on these cases based on faulty and/or incomplete information. Bush's decision making has been a topic I'd explored before here and here. How often is the information being given to Bush faulty? What does this say about him that his advisors feel free to not provide him a complete picture? How much of it is because Bush really doesn't want to worry about the details? He prides himself on his decisiveness, but this can be a very bad trait when the decisions are made without insight and/or thoughtfulness. For Bush, it seems to be yet one more case where a basically lazy and unreflective man relies on his gut feelings and his supreme self-confidence in his own capabilities. That and the fact that God tells him what to do.

Posted by Mary at January 7, 2005 07:44 AM | Law/Justice | Technorati links |

Bush's approach to most decision-making, including those death penalty clemency reviews, is somewhat messianic in nature. He does not want to be questioned...he feels equipped, after consulting his "father above," to decide all matters. People are, in essence, blasphemous if they question him.

He is notoriously incurious when it comes to research, and lets aides know the form and tone of info he dsires from them. Quite clearly, aides and staff are rewarded for obedience, not results.

He is uninterested in seeking other viewpoints.

Posted by: Deborah White at January 7, 2005 08:08 AM