Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Inside a Selective Prosecution

Selective prosecution, as practiced by the Bush Justice Department, is the subject of an ongoing Congressional investigation.

But how does selective prosecution work?

Well, it comes in two varieties. The first involves going after certain people for political reasons. (See Siegelman, D.; Minor, P.) The second involves not going after certain people for political reasons.

This second variety is more subtle and easier to disguise than the first. But it is every bit as unlawful and damaging to our democracy. And it is the kind of selective prosecution (SP for short) with which I am personally acquainted.

My lesson in SP came courtesy of Alice Martin, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama. Martin is well known in legal circles for a number of things, none of them flattering. She botched the criminal prosecution of former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy. She initiated the first prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, a case that was so weak it was summarily dismissed. She had Alabama legislator Sue Schmitz dragged out of her bathroom and handcuffed, even though Schmitz' attorney had said his client would willingly turn herself in to authorities, if required. She tried to conduct a media circus of serving subpoenas on lawmakers in Montgomery until it became clear that was a violation of state law.

Scott Horton, of Harper's, has written numerous articles about Martin's highly questionable prosecutorial tactics. One of my favorites is here.

Bob Martin, of the Montgomery Independent, wrote a most interesting profile of Martin:

Just who is Alice Martin? Alice Martin ended up in Florence about 1990, having received her law degree at the University of Mississippi and working as a federal prosecutor in Memphis. She married into the well-to-do Martin family who were manufacturers of stoves and other iron products in Florence. The Martin company filed for bankruptcy in the mid 1990s.

Martin was appointed city judge in the early 1990’s and was later appointed as a circuit judge in the 11th Judicial Circuit, by Gov. Fob James. She replaced Judge Don Patterson, a Democrat, who died. (Her federal court bio lists it as the 21st Judicial Circuit, which is incorrect) She ran for the position at the following election on the Republican ticket, spending over $100,000, but was soundly defeated by the Democratic nominee.

Martin was next appointed U.S. Attorney for the Northern District by President Bush, at the behest of her sponsors, sens. Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby. She still lives on Shoals Creek near Florence.

These lines jump out in Bob Martin's piece:

Although she has had some success as a U. S. Attorney, she botched the first prosecution of Don Siegelman and Richard Scrushy, and her attempted interference in the second case nearly wrecked it.

My sources in Florence tell me she is a very angry person who has an agenda against all Democrats.

Keep that thought in mind as we move forward.

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