Thursday, 5 July 2007

Bush Rationale on Libby Stirs Legal Debate

NYTImes

“By saying that the sentence was excessive, I wonder if he understood the ramifications of saying that,” said Ellen S. Podgor, who teaches criminal law at Stetson University in St. Petersburg, Fla. “This is opening up a can of worms about federal sentencing.”


...

Similarly, in a case decided two weeks ago by the United States Supreme Court and widely discussed by legal specialists in light of the Libby case, the Justice Department persuaded the court to affirm the 33-month sentence of a defendant whose case closely resembled that against Mr. Libby. The defendant, Victor A. Rita, was, like Mr. Libby, convicted of perjury, making false statements to federal agents and obstruction of justice.Mr. Rita has performed extensive government service, just as Mr. Libby has. Mr. Rita served in the armed forces for more than 25 years, receiving 35 commendations, awards and medals. Like Mr. Libby, Mr. Rita had no criminal history for purposes of the federal sentencing guidelines.


I doubt any of this went through the discussion at the White House - and certainly W is not smart enough to be able to work out these nuances for himself.

I would also expect the court to take a a very dim view of defenders who try this one on. As the article points out, the exercise of the Presidential prerogative has no value as a legal precedent. They can use it for a bit of grandstanding, but federal sentences are tough and will get tougher. After all the bench is now packed with hard, right wing Republicans.

"Perhaps the only unalloyed major second-term victory for Bush has been the confirmation of two Supreme Court justices who have begun to move the court to the right."
Washington Post

The US jails more people for longer than all but the most backward third world failed states. And with no effect on crime that is not better explained by demographics

And see this clever little animation on the Guardian web page - see it through to the very end






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