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Monday, June 2, 2008

Is a Slumbering Giant About to Awaken?

They don't come much bigger in the news business than The New York Times.

While right-wing critics frequently try to paint the "Old Grey Lady" with a "liberal" brush, you certainly would not know the paper was liberal based on its coverage of the Bush Justice Department scandal.

The Times has not been totally out to lunch on what probably will prove to be the worst scandal in the nation's history. But it has hardly produced the kind of "bulldog" coverage one would expect from the nation's paper of record.

Perhaps that is about to change. At least our friend Larisa Alexandrovna, of at-Largely, sees hopeful signs. They come in the form of an editorial in today's edition, stating that Congress should do everything in its power to make sure that former White House strategist Karl Rove testifies regarding his possible role in several questionable prosecutions around the country.

Alexandrovna notes that the most famed of those prosecutions is the Don Siegelman case in Alabama. But she points out that the Paul Minor case in Mississippi has a stench that is every bit as strong as that coming from the Siegelman case. And the Minor case has a particularly tragic element because Paul Minor's wife is dying of brain cancer while her husband remains in federal prison, convicted of crimes he clearly did not commit.

Minor's codefendants, former state judges Wes Teel and John Whitfield, also are wrestling with either personal or family health issues. But they, too, are in federal prison for crimes they did not commit.

A reasonable reader might ask, "Hey Schnauzer, how do you know they didn't commit these crimes? Where did you get your law degree?"

I don't have a law degree. But I've studied the relevant law and the trial transcript, and the question is not even a close one. Minor, Teel, and Whitfield were convicted for two reasons:

* U.S. Judge Henry Wingate unlawfully disallowed expert witnesses who would have shown that the underlying lawsuits favoring Minor's clients were decided correctly under the facts and the law. Essentially, Wingate kept the defendants from putting on a defense.

* Wingate butchered the jury instructions on the two primary charges--federal-funds bribery and honest-services mail fraud.

I invite anyone who wants to understand the Minor case to check all the posts and references to our "Mississippi Churning" series. It's a lot of material, and I'll be the first to say it's not the kind of reading you might take to the beach.

But if you really want to know how corrupt Justice Department officials abuse the law and turn law-abiding citizens into political prisoners, this is the place to do it.

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