The Paul Minor case has a special resonance here at Legal Schnauzer. And word comes today we have reached a landmark on the road to possible justice in a case that can only be described as gruesome.
Attorneys for Minor have filed an appeal in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. We will look at some of the key issues on appeal in a moment. But first, a word about why this case matters so much to us--and why it should matter to all Americans.
Our blog, which recently passed its first birthday, has focused primarily on three cases--two criminal prosecutions in federal court (the Minor case in Mississippi and the Don Siegelman case in Alabama) and one civil case in state court (my own legal travesty in Alabama).
The three cases might not seem to have much in common at first glance. But a common thread runs through them all: They all feature wrongdoing driven by people who are in, or have unusual connections to, the Bush Justice Department.
So what makes the Minor case special here in SchnauzerLand? Several things:
* Until I heard about the Minor case and began researching the issues involved in it, I did not fully understand how badly I had been cheated in my own case. And I did not begin to understand how badly Don Siegelman had been cheated in his case.
* Because of the Minor case, I became aware of, and developed a layman's understanding of, honest-services mail fraud. And that criminal charge is central to all three of our featured cases. In the Minor and Siegelman cases, the charge was improperly applied to help produce convictions that are not remotely grounded in law. In my case, real, honest-to-God honest-service mail fraud is present in copious amounts--and the Bush Justice Department ignores it because the wrongdoing involves "loyal Bushie" Republicans. That's what our justice system has come to over the past seven-plus years: Innocent people are convicted for political reasons and guilty people are not even investigated for political reasons. Praise be to Karl Rove.
* The Minor case has a personal element that illustrates the monstrous nature of some people connected to the Bush Justice Department. Paul Minor's wife is dying of cancer, but he has been held in federal prison pending appeal. Minor's codefendants, former Mississippi state judges Wes Teel and John Whitfield, have significant health issues of their own or in their immediate families. And yet, they too are being held in federal prison pending appeal. Now I can hear some folks calling me a "bleeding heart" for suggesting that the Minor defendants should receive consideration because of family health matters. And that certainly is part of my argument. But when you study the transcript and the case law as I have, you see that these gentlemen are innocent--and never should have been prosecuted, much less imprisoned. That's what makes certain Bushies--prosecutor Dunn Lampton and Judge Henry Wingate, in this case--particularly monstrous.
* Don Siegelman has been released pending appeal, and that is a sign of hope for folks who care about justice. But the plight of the Minor defendants should remind us: The spirit of Josef Stalin still lives in George W. Bush's America. And to think that Dubya never would have come close to winning the White House without the "Christian" vote. Makes you wonder what's going on in our churches.
What about the Minor appeal itself? Joe Doss, an Episcopal Bishop and friend/supporter of Paul Minor and his codefendants, issued a press release that definitely is worth reading in its entirety--not only for the legal points it makes but for the moral outrage it expresses:
Free America's Political Prisoners
For Immediate Release
June 20, 2008
Contact: Bishop Joe Doss
Paul Minor Appeals Unjust Conviction
Minor seeks release on bond with wife's death imminent
Attorneys for Paul Minor have filed an appeal of his conviction with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The brief outlines the following issues that warrant reversal of Mr. Minor's conviction:
* The District Court committed reversible error when it did not properly instruct the jury on the legal requirements for a bribery conviction, thus permitting the jury to convict Mr. Minor for conduct that was neither charged in the indictment nor considered bribery under federal law.
* The District Court committed reversible error when it prevented Mr. Minor from presenting crucial, relevant evidence that would have rebutted the charges. Specifically, Mr. Minor--charged for attempting to bribe Judge Whitfield--was not allowed to show the jury that he did not file his more significant cases in Judge Whitfield's court.
* The District court committed reversible error by not dismissing bribery charges against Mr. Minor because the evidence did not meet threshold of the federal bribery statute and the jury was improperly instructed on this fact.
Statement of Bishop Joe Doss of Free America's Political Prisoners:
It should be abhorrent to every American citizen that a man is forced to remain in prison while--as his appeal brief so clearly shows--there are glaring questions surrounding how this case was investigated, prosecuted and tried.
Paul Minor carries the additional burden of knowing that his wife is dying of cancer and has been given only a short time to live. His unjust incarceration makes it very likely that he will never see her again. Paul's release on bond pending appeal is not only legally justified, but considering the imminent death of his wife Sylvia, it is mandated if this process is to salvage a scintilla of basic human decency.
It stands in direct contrast to everything that this country professes to stand for that Paul Minor has not been allowed to remain free on appeal while the prosecutor who brought the bogus charges against him is himself currently under investigation by the U.S. Congress and the Office of Professional Responsibility at the Department of Justice.
The fact that the prosecutor and his office are being investigated about the origins of this prosecution raises more than enough doubt about the conviction to warrant Paul Minor's immediate release pending a thorough hearing on the legality of the prosecution and the ultimate hearing of Mr. Minor's appeal before the fifth circuit court of appeals.