Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Prosecutor's Lament

If you are a law-abiding citizen, you probably tend to hold prosecutors in fairly high regard. After all, they are the "good guys," out to ensure that "bad guys" pay for their crimes.

That's how I used to look at it. But after being a victim of a crime, and seeing up close how prosecutors actually work (at least the ones in Shelby County, Alabama), my opinion of them has plummeted.

Now comes Louis Franklin, acting U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama, issuing a bizarre press release about media coverage of the Don Siegelman prosecution and tarnishing the reputation of his profession even further.

Franklin seems exorcised at the growing spectre of a congressional inquiry into the Siegelman prosecution. And you have to wonder why. Franklin got the conviction he wanted, and Siegelman and Scrushy are in federal prison. Franklin claims to be confident that the prosecution was just and the jury came to the correct decision. So why is he so worked up over media coverage of the matter?

It's not all media coverage that troubles Franklin. He seems to take every word printed by the right-leaning Birmingham News and Mobile Press-Register as gospel. But he can barely control his venom for Time magazine and The New York Times, the ones who raise questions about the motives of the Bush Justice Department.

In all of the emotion of his statement, Franklin seems to have trouble with some facts. Scott Horton of Harper's provides insight into the prosecutor's misstatements. Horton follows up with a classic critique of Alabama newspapers, the very ones that Franklin seems to admire so.

It's fascinating to get a glimpse of Franklin's mindset. He repeatedly equates Dana Jill Simpson's affidavit (signed under oath) with the media denials of Bill Canary, Terry Butts and company (which, of course, are unsworn). Not only does Franklin not seem to see any difference between the two, he thinks the unsworn statements hold much more water than Simpson's sworn statements. If that's how he thinks, you do have to wonder about the handling of the Siegelman case.

One can only guess at what Franklin hoped to achieve by issuing his nine-page missive. But if he wanted to calm charges of politicization in the U.S. Justice Department, he failed miserably.

Franklin's statement is filled with partisan rants. Whatever happened to the notion of a prosecutor as even-tempered, objective, above-the-fray? If any of that was left, Franklin did his best to obliterate it.

The whole tone of Franklin's press release leaves one thinking, "Methinks thou dost protest too much."

This will not be the last time we see the mask pulled off a prosecutor here at Legal Schnauzer. In my experience in Shelby County, Alabama, I saw stunning incompetence, corruption, and hypocrisy from the district attorney's office.

First, when I was the victim of a relatively minor crime (criminal trespass), the DA's office butchered the prosecution, which led to an acquittal, which led to the lawsuit against me.

More recently, I was the victim of a serious crime--my Neighbor From Hell (NFH) assaulted me, hitting me in the back with a roadside sign. I will go into much more detail on this soon, but hitting someone with a dangerous object, causing injury (a bloody welt) is clearly a felony under Alabama law. But folks in the office of Shelby County DA Robert Owens have insisted that it would have to be prosecuted as a misdemeanor. That has left me with no choice, for now, but to let NFH get away with another crime. Owens, of course, is a Republican who consistently touts his tough-on-crime credentials.

If you hold prosecutors in high regard, try becoming a crime victim. There's a good chance your opinion will change.

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