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Thursday, July 3, 2008

Paul Minor Case Moves Forward on Appeal

Our friends at folo have been providing excellent coverage on the appellate process in the Paul Minor case in Mississippi. And I must say, right up front, that I am delighted our little blog plays a role in the appeal.

The Minor case presents many of the same issues on appeal as the Don Siegelman case, so this is a Mississippi case well worth following for folks in Alabama.

A report comes today that Minor has asked the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals for release pending appeal. The folks at folo report:

(Minor) now moves for release pending appeal, arguing that the circumstances of his bond revocation no longer pertain, that his wife is dying of cancer with only months to live, that the sentence Judge Wingate should have imposed he’d have already served, and that he has meritorious issues in his appeal brief, which we blogged about earlier in the week.

As I said at the time about the appeal brief, I was just describing what I saw and was going to say what I thought about it when I’d had a chance to read more about the case, particularly after reading the government’s reply brief. I do think that his basic issues– bribery instructions and quid pro quo– ought to be excellent issues.

Earlier in the week, folo posted about the Minor appellate brief and noted its similarities to the Siegelman appeal. The post even has a link to the brief itself, which is a whopper at 121 pages.

I haven't worked through all of the brief yet, but I've written 25-plus posts about the Minor case, and I can state without hestitation that this case is about as bad a miscarriage of justice as my imagination can handle. Three men--Paul Minor, Wes Teel, and John Whitfield--are modern-day political prisoners because of a slimy prosecutor named Dunn Lampton (currently under investigation by the Justice Department) and a disgraceful federal judge named Henry Wingate (who should have an impeachment hearing and a prison sentence with his name on them).

Here's a nice summary of the issues from folo:

The big theme of the brief is that Minor was given a first trial in which he was acquitted on some charges and the jury hung on others, that in the second trial the judge made very critical unexplained changes in rulings, and there was a conviction. Among the unexplained changes in rulings:

* a decision to refuse to instruct the jury that, to prove bribery, there had to be proof of a quid pro quo– some sort of exchange for the payment. This exact issue is a major one in the Siegelman case.

*a decision to refuse to allow proof that Minor had done these sorts of guarantees before in other contexts, proof that had been allowed in the first trial.

* a decision to refuse to allow proof (also allowed in the first trial) that the result in the two cases was a reasonable and proper result, and that the Minor firm had done hard work for the result and had major expertise in these areas.

Then, how about this? The brief includes a section about the role the alternative press has played in bringing the Minor case to public attention. We at Legal Schnauzer are proud as we can be to be included with the likes of Scott Horton from Harper's.org, Larisa Alexandrovna at Raw Story, and Adam Lynch at the Jackson Free Press. (Can someone please tell me why Jackson, Mississippi, has an alternative weekly with a spine, and Birmingham does not?)

The brief then goes on the attack the sentence and concludes by asking that on remand the case be reassigned to another judge. The last issue is a sustained attack on Judge Wingate based not on the record in this case but on media accounts, particularly from Scott Horton at Harper’s. There are even cites to the LegalSchnauzer blog, the Raw Story web page, and a Jackson Free Press article.

Paul Minor and his codefendants have some world-class lawyers, and this appeal is about as close to a no-brainer as the Fifth Circuit is likely to ever see. If these convictions aren't overturned, we might as well take all of our law schools and courthouses and blow them up (after all living things are removed) so we can start over from scratch. This appeal truly is a test case for determining whether our justice system even has an ounce of merit left.

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