Monday, July 02, 2007

More Justice For All?

Bush commutes Libby prison sentence. Thus spake the Almighty Press. Well, y'all know this isn't going to set well with Democrats right? In fact according to the AP story
"As Independence Day nears, we are reminded that one of the principles our forefathers fought for was equal justice under the law. This commutation completely tramples on that principle," Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said through a spokesman.

Somehow I think we all knew that he, and others, would weigh in. Bloomberg notes:
Bush's decision was denounced by Democrats. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, who had demanded that Bush promise not to pardon Libby, called the commutation ``disgraceful'' and said, ``History will judge him harshly for using that power to benefit his own vice president's chief of staff.''

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama of Illinois said Bush's action cements his legacy as one of ``cynicism and division'' that ``placed itself and its ideology above the law.''

I have to say that I support GWBush in general because he is the President. I also have to say that my support is in the form of loyal opposition more and more. Today added to that list.

I'm kind of in a conundrum. I despise criminals with the same intensity that the Orkin man feels for cockroaches. I break crime into three broad categories. Those that involve violence either as an act or as a result, those that don't, and those that involve national security. Of course the violent felons should be locked away forever. Of course any crime that results in death (even speeding or dui) should result in a death sentence. And of course, I recognise that the power to pardon or commuteis absolute and without question. So in this case I have to subordinate my opinion in favor of reality. At least this President isn't (so far) as prolific as some when it comes to exercising this privilege.

By commuting the sentence, he signals both parties that he is loyal to his people for better or worse. That in and of itself is honorable. So we have a case of someone doing the wrong thing for the right reasons. Sounds like politics as usual huh?

The reality is that the US Criminal Justice system, at the Federal level, needs a series of modifications to bring it into the twenty-first century. Since the Democrats are in power, it isn't realistic to propose the more "radical" of them. But, here are some steps along the way that would come closer to the phrase "and justice for all". If the democrats work toward these, thier ultimate reward might be the favor of the McUSA family come the next round of elections.

First: All guilty verdicts involving violence or national security must result in long incarcerations. Non-violent crimes should not result in incarceration. This partially feeds the "liberal" desire for rehabilitation as well as the "right wing" desire for retribution.

Second: No federal conviction receives parole in any form save pardon or commutation by the President.

Third: Eliminate any and all "Club Fed" institutions unless they are set aside for the mentally ill. Prisoners in thier right minds whether they were drug runners, congressional aides, staffers, cops, etc are all housed together.

Here is the most radical of the suggestions. Once the verdict is in, the presiding judge should draft a neutral executive summary. This summary should be given to a sentencing judge. Almost everyone agrees that "equal justice under the law" isn't a reality in todays United States. So, each case gets two judges. The presiding judge makes sure that the case proceeds according to law and procedure. He will ensure the jury is properly instructed. In short he will do as he always has except for sentencing.

The sentencing judge will receive a brief from the presiding judge which will be sanitized with regard to race, religion, gender, notoriety, national origin, age, etc etc. He will not know if he is sentencing a poor white female, an old black man, a rich Muslim sheik, or a crippled poor Mexican male. His sentence is based on the facts presented to him devoid of the prejudices we see so often. Think Paris Hilton, Sandy Berger, and Scooter Libby.

The bottom line is that in this country we have a standard of justice that isn't being met. It is more a matter of how much attorney you can afford, which old boy club you belong to, and who you know. I don't think justice will ever be truly blind, but maybe in the sentencing phase we can at least turn down the lights.

AP Story via Yahoo News


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