JIP Undertakes Major New Project, Reduces Daily Schedule

The Justice Integrity Project is completing a major investigative project. But doing so requires a temporary cut-back on what has been our near-daily publication during the week.

Our research will reveal why the courts and other government branches increasingly resist reform, even when scandals are documented. The situation these days in public life is worse than I've ever seen in journalism, law and public affairs during a career that began in 1970 as a newspaper reporter.

To give an idea of where this this research is going, let me share a comment to me last week by the brilliant law professor Thomas W. Hazlett, a prolific commentator on national affairs and a tenured professor at George Mason School of Law:

Thomas W. Hazlett"People in Washington like to say, 'You always get caught for the cover-up, not the crime,'" he said. "But that's crazy. Most of the time, the cover-up works perfectly! That's why it's used so often."

Mark FullerWell, well, well. Isn't that nice?

Common sense says that Hazlett, at left, must be correct. To be clear, however, Hazlett was speaking generally about official wrongdoing in Washington, and not about any of the specific cases I have investigated.

But his comment resonated, especially regarding the most powerful example in our project's research. This is the frame-up by the U.S. Department of Justice of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman on corruption charges. Courts and the Bush and Obama DOJ have consistently rubber-stamped gross irregularities and indeed likely criminality by authorities in their zeal to imprison the state's most important Democrat.

Siegelman is scheduled to be resentenced Aug. 3 in Montgomery Alabama by U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller, at right. The Republican Fuller is notorious for receiving some $300 million in no-bid Bush contracts for his secret, privately held company after issuing many pro-prosecution rulings to help convict Siegelman at trial in 2006. That sordid history is summarized by news excerpts below.

But the Siegelman case is just one of many injustices that we have researched during recent years. The Executive Branch, Congress, the courts or the private sector have provided only scant or sporadic reaction.

The project's current focus is thus on the root causes of this breakdown in law and reform, not on documenting new cases of suspected irregularities. Results so far? As no surprise for discerning readers, reform of injustice provides scant career benefits for politicians and their hirelings in the courts and law enforcement bureaucracies. Speaking up increasingly requires true civic spirit and courage for those involved.

Peter Janney

For these reasons, I believe our project mission -- and your interest as readers -- is best advanced by this temporarily reduced schedule. I  expect to return full-steam when findings are ready. Our featured blog columns will continue at the rate of about two per week. One of them usually will focus on guests for my weekly public affairs radio show on Thursdays, MTL Washington Update. The guests, many of whom are authors, professors or other newsmakers, frequently have insights on point with legal and political reform.

Peter Janney CoverThis week's guest, for example, is Peter Janney, left, author of the new book, Mary's Mosaic: The CIA Conspiracy to Murder John F. Kennedy, Mary Pinchot Meyer and Their Vision for World Peace. Janney, a psychologist, is the son of a high-ranking CIA official. He's worked 35 years to solve one ofthe most explosive and sensitive murders of the last half century.

Next week's guest is psychoanalyst Dr. Justin Frank, who authored the best-sellers Obama on the Couch (2011) and Bush on the Couch (2004).

During the research project this summer, we'll continue to excerpt relevant news and commentary at the end of these columns and on our subsite for breaking news.

In the meantime, thank you for your inputs -- and stayed tuned (if less frequently) for our big news to come. As a hint, it will involve cover-ups. The good news is that what can be covered up can also be exposed.

 

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Siegelman Coverage

Background

2012

WVTM (Montgomery), Judge rejects Don Siegelman's request to vacate new trial denial, Jon Paepcke, July 16, 2012. A federal judge has rejected Don Siegelman's request to erase an earlier ruling denying the former Governor a new trial. Federal Judge Mark Fuller has denied Don Siegelman's request that Fuller vacate his ruling in which he denied a new trial for Alabama's former Governor. On July 5, Fuller rejected Siegelman's longstanding motion for a new trial.

Legal Schnauzer, What Is the Fallout from the U.S. Supreme Court's Refusal To Hear the Siegelman Appeal? Roger Shuler, June 4, 2012. The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) today ruled that citizens can be convicted of "crimes" that do not exist, based on jury instructions that do not mirror actual law. The Supreme Court also overturned the case that had served as precedent for more than 20 years in cases that allege bribery in the context of a campaign contribution. For good measure, the high court also provided overwhelming evidence that Barack Obama does not deserve a second term as president. And, by the way, criminal cases no longer have to be proven "beyond a reasonable doubt."

SCOTUS did not make any of those decisions in the form of actual rulings. But those are essentially the take-home lessons from the court's decision this morning not to hear an appeal in the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy. Perhaps the most important lesson is this: The nation's highest court proved beyond any doubt--and there really was no doubt in light of the 2000 Bush v. Gore ruling -- that it is corrupt and our entire "justice system" needs a thorough cleansing from top to bottom.

New York Times, Justices Refuse to Hear Ex-Governor’s Appeal, John H. Cushman Jr., June 4 2012.  The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear the appeals of former Gov. Don E. Siegelman of Alabama and the man convicted of bribing him, a case which has tested the murky limits of when a campaign donation can be considered corrupt. The two were convicted in 2006 on federal bribery charges after Richard M. Scrushy, the former chief executive of HealthSouth, contributed $500,000 to help pay off the debt of a 1999 referendum campaign for a state lottery favored by the governor, who in turn named Mr. Scrushy to a state hospital board.

2011

Legal Schnauzer, Obama Nominee Should Be Rejected for Key Justice Department Post, Roger Shuler, April 6, 2011. The U.S. Senate should thoroughly grill and then reject the Obama administration's nominee for a controversial U.S. attorney position, according to a report out this morning from the Justice Integrity Project (JIP).

Legal Schnauzer, Obama Proposes a Wretched Nominee for Controversial U.S. Attorney Post, Roger Shuler, April 1, 2011. Just when you think the Obama administration's performance on justice issues in Alabama can't get any worse . . . it does.  Now we know why Obama waited more than two years to nominate a replacement for Bush appointee Leura Canary in the Middle District of Alabama. He apparently planned to nominate someone who is almost as bad as she is . . . so, why rush it?

2010
Nieman Watchdog, New Questions Raised About Prosecutor Who Cleared Bush Officials in U.S. Attorney Firings, Andrew Kreig, July 25, 2010.

2009
Legal Schnauzer, Lawyers Rake In Almost $28 million in Fees On Scrushy Case, Roger Shuler, Dec. 17, 2009.

Nieman Watchdog, Covering Prosecutors Calls For Tough-Minded Reporters, Andrew Kreig, Oct. 18, 2009.

Huffington Post, Alabama Decisions Illustrate Abuse of Judicial Power, Andrew Kreig, June 10, 2009.

Huffington Post, Siegelman's First Trial Judge Blasts U.S. Prosecutors, Seeks Probe of 'Unfounded' Charges, May 21, 2009, Andrew Kreig.

Huffington Post, Siegelman Deserves New Trial Because of Judge’s ‘Grudge’, Evidence Shows….$300 Million in Bush Military Contracts Awarded to Judge’s Private Company, Andrew Kreig, May 15, 2009.

Huffington Post, Probe the Past to Protect the Future, Andrew Kreig, March 4, 2009.

2008
Truth in Justice, It Does Happen In America: The Political Trial of Don Siegelman, Paul Craig Roberts, Feb. 28, 2008.

CBS 60 Minutes, Did Ex-Alabama Governor Get A Raw Deal? Scott Pelley, Feb. 24, 2008.

 

Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues

Legal Schnauzer, Alabama Lawyer Threatened to Kill A Man In the Midst of Divorce Proceeding, Roger Shuler, July 23, 2012. How's this for "legal ethics"?  Birmingham attorney Allan L. Armstrong threatened to kill a man in 2008 after cheating with the man's wife, apparently prompting a divorce action. The threat led to a motion for a restraining order against Armstrong, which a Jefferson County circuit judge granted. Has the Alabama State Bar taken action against one of its members, an "officer of the court," for such thuggish actions? Our investigation on the matter is not complete, but we've seen no signs that the bar has taken any action against Armstrong.

Brendan SullivanWashington Post, No justice for ‘reckless’ prosecutors, Brendan V. Sullivan Jr., right, July 5, 2012. In late May, the Justice Department finally completed its three-year investigation of the miscreant prosecutors who obtained an illegal verdict against Sen. Ted Stevens in 2008. That verdict caused the Alaska Republican to lose his reelection bid and changed the balance of power in the Senate. The department’s actions in this matter have fallen too far short. The underlying misconduct represents a shameful chapter in the Justice Department’s history. But the department’s failure to punish wrongdoers makes the scandal worse, and the failure makes a mockery of the attorney general’s effort to establish a standard of propriety that the goal of prosecutors is to do justice, not to win at all costs. The department has said that such misconduct happens only rarely. But most times the defense does not find out when prosecutors hold back exculpatory evidence. The Innocence Project has shown in recent years that there is widespread injustice in our system and many wrongful convictions. It is hard to catch a wrongdoer prosecutor. When we do, the punishment must fit the crime. The Justice Department’s failure to adequately punish is unbecoming to the department and unfair to the thousands of honest prosecutors who do follow the law. If we don’t learn from these mistakes, we are doomed to repeat this miscarriage of justice. And if this can happen to a U.S. senator in a Washington, D.C., courtroom, it can happen to anyone, anywhere in America.