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Asleep At The Bar
It isn't just the torture malfunction. Alberto Gonzales, nominated by our "moral values" president to be our nation's chief law officer, has had a few morality malfunctions in the past, too; specifically, in the shoddy and cavalier way he memo'ed Bush on whether death row candidates might deserve clemency. The whole article is worth a read (on Salon, so there is that annoying commercial):

Consider the matter of David Wayne Stoker, who was executed for murdering convenience store clerk David Manrique in a 1986 robbery that netted $96. Gonzales, a Harvard-educated lawyer, summarized the substantive issues in this vicious, stereotypically "pointless" crime in a grand total of 18 lines. Had Gonzales been willing to expend just a little more ink on this matter of life and death, here are some of the things he might have mentioned to the governor: For starters, he might have pointed out that a federal appellate judge concluded that the state's star witness against Stoker was just as likely the murderer. He might have noted that a key state witness recanted following Stoker's conviction, explaining that he'd been pressured by the prosecution to perjure himself. He might have mentioned that the state's star witness received a financial reward for fingering Stoker and had felony drug and weapons charges dropped the day he testified against Stoker -- raising the obvious possibility that he had had a motive for accusing Stoker.

But that's not all. Gonzales apparently didn't think his boss needed to know that this star 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 in capital murder trials, and that the state's expert psychiatric witness, whose testimony provided the jury with a legal basis for handing down a death sentence, never bothered to interview Stoker. By the time Gonzales was supposedly researching the case for Bush, this expert had been expelled from the American Psychiatric Association for repeatedly providing unethical testimony in murder cases. Needless to say, Gonzales didn't think it was worth pointing out that the jury that had sentenced Stoker to death was ignorant of all those facts.

Would Bush have opted to execute Stoker even if Gonzales had given him all of that mitigating evidence? Probably, given all we know about his record on clemency. Nonetheless, the case raises important questions about a lawyer's moral obligation to keep his client adequately informed, as well as that lawyer's basic sense of fairness and decency. Senators might want to ask themselves if they would have been willing to execute Stoker based on Gonzales' 18-line summary. Alternatively, would they have executed him knowing the facts Gonzales failed to include? Finally, they might ponder whether Bush, relying on Gonzales, executed an innocent man.

A first-year law student preparing a brief for his client such as the one Gonzales wrote up on the Stoker case would probably be advised to consider another line of work. But not Gonzales. Bush, who would later make "character" the mantra of his first presidential campaign, was apparently more than happy with the Reader's Digest Condensed work product offered up by his lawyer. In his autobiography, Bush wrote that for every death case, the office of legal counsel would "brief me thoroughly, review the arguments made by the prosecution and defense, raise any doubts or problems or questions." Bush promoted Gonzales to the office of the Texas secretary of state, to the Texas Supreme Court and finally to White House counsel's position.

Legal ethicists may argue that the client calls the shots and that the president should have the attorney he is comfortable with. The question the Senate must now confront is whether Gonzales is the right attorney for the rest of the country.

Posted by aalkon at January 8, 2005 9:42 AM

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Comments

Posted by: Cridland at January 8, 2005 6:30 PM

That's what folks on the old Lower East Side would call a "horror show" [pronounced "HARRAH show"]. No wonder I have to drug myself to sleep at night.

Crid -- Lena followed your link to City Journal. Heather's piece is quite long. Lena is a slow reader with quite a bit of her own writing to do today, so she did a text search for the words "Gonzales" and "attorney" and came up with nothing. You need to editorialize a bit on how it relates to the Gonzales hearings. hugs, L

Posted by: Lena Bright and Dark (mostly dark) at January 8, 2005 7:05 PM