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miércoles, febrero 04, 2009

Saving 49 Lives (Part 5)

Evidently, though I'm all fired up about getting the new Attorney General to review all of the pending federal death penalty cases-- there are 49 of them-- and to forbid prosecutors from seeking the death penalty, not so many others are quite as ignited as I am. I think I know why.

The petition now has 62 signatures. Many people have emailed the Attorney General at or at to request that he review these cases. I appreciate everyone's efforts on this.

Please join me in DC, where things are somewhat "different."

Others, however, have asked me an important question. Why, they ask, am I trying to start a confrontational, net based movement when I haven't formally asked the Attorney General, who was sworn in only yesterday, to do something, and he hasn't ever said that he wouldn't do it? Do I anticipate that he wouldn't listen once he has a chance to focus to the request I'm making? Well, yeah, usually, I confess, I think he wouldn't. Maybe I'm just cynical, or lacking hope, or well, demanding. Maybe I'm used to being on the far fringe and being thrown under any on coming vehicle operated by a common carrier.

Regardless, this argument for calm and reason made a certain kind of deflating sense to me. What if, I wonder, the AG actually did adopt my request? That would be remarkable, stunning, delightful. So why not give it a try? Why not see whether the new administration is listening?

So, I have decided to adopt a brand new, albeit far less fun strategy for today. For today only.

Today I am temporarily suspending my many efforts to start a wide ranging, internet based, popular movement to make demands of the Attorney General. Instead, I am only posting this diary and I am sending the following thoughtful letter to the new Attorney General:

February 5, 2009

The Honorable Eric Holder
Attorney General of the United States
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001

Re: Federal Death Penalty Cases

Your Honor:
I am a criminal defense attorney who has practiced in the state and federal courts for more than thirty years. I am writing to request that you review all of the prior Attorneys Generals’ decisions directing federal prosecutors to seek the death penalty, and that you withdraw permission for seeking the death penalty in all of the appropriate cases.

As I’m sure you are aware, under Attorney General John Ashcroft, the decision to seek the death penalty for federal crimes was “federalized.” United States Attorneys were no longer permitted to decide this question; the decision was made to broaden both the number of cases and geographical area in which death was sought. That regrettable policy, which was continued by Alberto Gonzalez and Michael Mukasey, has resulted in approximately 49 individuals presently facing the federal death penalty.

Previously, in response to requests by federal judges or prosecutors, the Attorney General has reviewed and reconsidered his decision to seek the death penalty. Those requests have sometimes resulted in withdrawal of the request for death.

In light of your previous, reported statements and the reported statements of President Obama, I doubt that the criteria previously used to determine that the death penalty should be sought, continue to have vitality. Accordingly, I am requesting that you now review these determinations, and if they do not meet the currently applicable standards to seek the death penalty, that you direct the United States Attorneys to withdraw their demand for the death penalty in these cases.

Thank you very much for your attention to this matter.

That will be my only activity on this issue other than this diary for Thursday. I will act like a responsible adult. For today. I make no promises about tomorrow. Or the next day.

I am, of course, inviting you, dear reader, to send a similar letter.

If after a reasonable amount of time the request in this letter has not been granted, i.e. by Friday morning at 11 am ET, I will again consider my other alternatives and I will again start beating the pots and pans. And writing essays. And sending emails and creating petitions. And stirring things up.

But for now, for today only, I have decided temporarily to pause and to wait and to see whether the current administration's promises of responsiveness will result in a favorable response to my request.

Will it? What do you think??

I should add this. This is what I call wonderful, beautiful help in reaching out to our fellow net citizens and to the new Attorney General. I am so delighted to see this. And, of course, you know that you can do the same thing. I know you can do it!!

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