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Private Texas Clemency Memos Revealed

The July/August issue of Atlantic Monthly , due to hit the stands June 24, reports:

As the legal counsel to Texas Governor George W. Bush, Alberto R. Gonzales — now the White House counsel, and widely regarded as a likely future Supreme Court nominee—prepared 57 confidential death-penalty memoranda for Bush's review. Never before discussed publicly, the memoranda suggest that Gonzales repeatedly failed to apprise Bush of some of the most salient issues in the cases at hand.

....During Bush's 6 years as governor 150 men and 2 women were executed in Texas—a record unmatched by any other governor in modern American history. Each time a person was sentenced to death, Bush received from his legal counsel a document summarizing the facts of the case, usually on the morning of the day scheduled for the execution, and was then briefed on those facts by his counsel; based on this information Bush allowed the execution to proceed in all cases but one. The first 57 of these summaries were prepared by Gonzales...

Author Alan Berlow obtained the never before published memos, which is permitted under the Texas Public Information Act. He says,

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.

[Edit: The link above now goes directly to the article. This is an excellent piece of reporting. [Thanks to Rev. Mr. George W. Brooks, Director of Advocacy for Kolbe House in Chicago for sending it to us.]

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