But for those of us in the Heart of Dixie, here are the bigger questions: Did the judge's decision, in a round-about way, move former Alabama governor Don Siegelman closer to justice? And did the defendants in the Paul Minor case in Mississippi--attorney Paul Minor and former state judges Wes Teel and John Whitfield--also inch closer to justice?
U.S. Judge Emmet Sullivan did not merely dismiss the case against Stevens, as Attorney General Eric Holder had requested. Sullivan also opened a criminal investigation into the prosecutors who butchered the Stevens case, appointing Washington, D.C., attorney Henry Schuelke as special prosecutor.
How bad was the prosecutors' behavior? Here's how the judge put it:
"In nearly 25 years on the bench, I've never seen anything approaching the mishandling and misconduct that I've seen in this case," U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said.
Scott Horton, legal-affairs contributor for Harper's magazine, said, in essence, "If you think that was disgusting, you ain't seen nothing yet":
But the misconduct of Bush-era prosecutors in the Stevens case is child’s play compared to what was done in the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don E. Siegelman, Mississippi lawyer Paul Minor, judges Walter Teel and John Whitfield, and a half dozen other cases profiled here. So the question rests with Holder: when is he going to do something to rectify the mess he inherited? Judge Sullivan is right about the solution: it starts with education. Remind the government lawyers that they cannot wield their power corruptly or unethically without consequences. And make clear that unethical conduct will be dealt with swiftly and harshly, not swept under the carpet as it has been for the last eight years.
Want to read a devastating indictment of the Bush Department of Justice? Consider this paragraph from the Associated Press account of the Stevens ruling:
Sullivan said the matter was too serious to be left to an internal investigation by the department, which he said has dragged its feet looking into the misconduct. He criticized former Attorney General Michael Mukasey for not responding to complaints of misconduct in the case: "Shocking, but not surprising," Sullivan said.
Too serious to be left to an internal investigation by the department? And the judge was not surprised that the Bush DOJ didn't respond to charges of misconduct in the case? Wow, sounds like someone in the justice system is finally recognizing the truth about the last eight years.
The special prosecutor will focus heavily on three members of the Public Integrity Section of the U.S. Department of Justice--Brenda Morris, Nicholas Marsh, and Edward Sullivan.
The Public Integrity Section (PIS) was heavily involved in the Siegelman and Minor prosecutions. Could the investigation on the Stevens matter help shine some much needed light on the PIS's activities in the Siegelman and Minor cases?
It might be a pretty good place to start.