Lawyer Asks Bush: What About My Client?

David Dow, the University Distinguished Professor at the University of Houston Law Center who represented a death penalty defendant in Texas while George Bush was Governor, has some questions for the President in this Houston Chronicle Op-Ed about his commutation of Scooter Libby's sentence and his failure to grant the same to his client, Carl Johnson.

Dow writes,

My client, Carl Johnson, committed the worst crime that can be committed against another human being: He killed someone. And Lewis Libby committed the crime that is most injurious to our criminal justice system: He lied. Unlike my client, Libby, who was convicted by a jury of his peers despite being represented by the best lawyers that money can buy, has never shown any public sign of remorse. Nevertheless, despite all that, President Bush did not exceed his authority in commuting Lewis Libby's prison sentence. The Constitution gives him the power to do what he did. But it is possible for actions to be lawful and simultaneously in conflict with other constitutional principles. Last week's pardon deeply offends the constitutional value of equality, the idea that all citizens stand equal before the law.


Lewis Libby had something in common with the other people George Bush has pardoned, and with people President Clinton pardoned as well: He is rich and powerful, and he has rich and powerful connections. People do not get pardons because they are mentally retarded, or because they were young when they committed their crime, or because they had terrible lawyers, or because they have reformed, or even because they are innocent. They get them because they have friends in high places. That might not be illegal, but it's still wrong, and a president who issues pardons and commutations on that basis has not done very much at all to bring integrity to the Oval Office.

Also check out Scribe's new diary on the commutation.

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    A lot of Lawyers... (none / 0) (#1)
    by TomStewart on Sun Jul 08, 2007 at 01:09:50 PM EST
    and defendants are asking the same thing all across America this week, while others turn away in disgust at the justice a rich buddy of the president gets. More and more the question of Rich/Poor under the law is going to be asked, and probably met with the shrug 'what are ya gonna do?'.

    A Poor man entangled in the law, innocent or guilty, has less options, fewer friends, and the smallest of voices. A rich man? He has an army of lawyers who will try their damnedest to make a friend out of the law for him, contacts in high places, and a legal bullhorn with the ability to stretch his trial and lengthen his time in the sun as a free man.

    The presidents clemency of Scootie Patootie drags this mess out in the sun for all America (and the world) to see and shake their heads at. Yes, it's been this way for a long time, getting worse every year, but that's no excuse not to change it.

    Bush and Bush thinking must go.

    oh puhleeeeeeeeeeeeze! (none / 0) (#2)
    by cpinva on Sun Jul 08, 2007 at 01:58:58 PM EST
    justice, like health care, is a bought and sold commodity in this country, and pretty much always has been. with the exception of the occasional pro bono representation, by some high-powered attorney, in some high profile case, most people get what they pay for.

    i mean no disrespect to public defenders or average joe attorneys: they work very hard, but their's, and their client's, resources are generally limited, by comparison to those the state can muster.

    as f. scott fitzgerald pointed out, "the rich are different from you and i." they have lots more money than the rest of us. to express any kind of surprise that they might be treated differently, is to display a deep level of naivete', regarding how things work in real life.

    cpinva (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by HK on Sun Jul 08, 2007 at 02:20:49 PM EST
    to express any kind of surprise that they might be treated differently, is to display a deep level of naivete

    I don't think it's surprise that's being expressed but outrage.  And rightly so.

    I linked to this article on the subject on another Scooter thread, but it's far more relevant to this one (this one wasn't up when I posted the link).  People far and wide are making the same analogy as David Dow.


    Cpniva (none / 0) (#4)
    by Claw on Sun Jul 08, 2007 at 06:35:22 PM EST
    I disagree.  I'm not sure what the pay scale cutoff is for "average joe" v. non average joe attorneys but I've seen plenty of very well paid lawyers do just enough to collect their fee.  I've also seen plenty public defenders do incredible work for their clients.  You're absolutely right that public defenders don't have the resources of the state but, oddly, the best lawyering I've seen from PD's has occurred in major felony cases...cases where one would think the lack of resources would be most harmful.  I'd agree with you if you'd limited your comment to misdemeanors or crimes that don't carry the threat of significant prison time.  If you're charged with a misdemeanor and you really want the best possible deal then, yes, you probably do want to get out the checkbook.  
    If you don't want to take my word for all this I recommend the documentary "Murder on a Sunday Morning."