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Wednesday, June 18, 2003
There's an essential article on the Atlantic's site describing the process by which then-Governor Bush decided to deny clemency to all but one of the record number of people put to death in Texas during his term. He bases this on an examination of the recently-obtained memos authored by current White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales:
Gonzales's summaries were Bush's primary source of information in deciding whether someone would live or die. Each is only three to seven pages long and generally consists of little more than a brief description of the crime, a paragraph or two on the defendant's personal background, and a condensed legal history. Although the summaries rarely make a recommendation for or against execution, many have a clear prosecutorial bias, and all seem to assume that if an appeals court rejected one or another of a defendant's claims, there is no conceivable rationale for the governor to revisit that claim. This assumption ignores one of the most basic reasons for clemency: the fact that the justice system makes mistakes.
A close examination of the Gonzales memoranda suggests that Governor Bush frequently approved executions based on only the most cursory briefings on the issues in dispute. In fact, in these documents Gonzales repeatedly failed to apprise the governor of crucial issues in the cases at hand: ineffective counsel, conflict of interest, mitigating evidence, even actual evidence of innocence.
(from a post by Leah at Eschaton, who appears to be the only sane one posting during Atrios' vacation)