Thursday, July 05, 2007

George Bush, Alberto Gonzales and The Death Penalty

Yesterday I blogged about George Bush having signed more death warrants than any Governor or any type of elected official in American history -- 150 men and two women in Texas. One of the articles I linked to, an article from The Atlantic, accused Alberto Gonzales of "repeatedly failing to apprise Bush of some of the most salient issues" regarding the fifty-seven death-penalty cases he prepared for Bush to review.

The Legal Ethics Forum posted an interesting encounter one attorney had with Alberto Gonzales regarding commuting his client's federal death sentence. Considering that only three federal executions have been carried out since 1963, I'm going to assume this is probably the case Mr. Floyd is referring.

From: Timothy W. Floyd [FLOYD_TW@Mercer.edu]
Sent: Tuesday, July 03, 2007 9:46 PM
o: 'Law Faculty'
Subject: President Bush and commutation

In March 2003, for the first and only time in my life, I went to the West Wing of the White House. At that time, I was representing a man who was
scheduled to be executed by the federal government in less than three weeks.
I had filed a request for commutation, asking the President to commute the death sentence to a sentence of life without the possibility of release. Department of Justice rules require that such a request be filed with the Office of the Pardon Attorney in DOJ. Although I had filed the request in December, we had not yet received any response.

While the commutation request was pending, I asked then White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales if he would meet with me to discuss the case. (I knew that the White House Counsel was ultimately responsible for making a recommendation to the President on my request.) To my great surprise, he agreed and invited me to a meeting in his office. We met for over an hour. I was allowed to present my argument in some detail, and I answered many questions from Judge Gonzales. I was quite impressed that Judge Gonzales had obviously read my written submissions and had already given the case some thought.

Judge Gonzales told me three things about President Bush's policy in considering requests for commutation. First, that President Bush would not consider commutation if he believed that the case had already received full and fair consideration by the jury and the courts who heard the case.

Second, that the President would not consider the request until he had a recommendation from the Department of Justice. Finally, he said that the
President would not act on any request for commutation until all judicial avenues in the case had been exhausted.

Just thought you might be interested in what this White House claimed about
the commutation process.

Tim

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