Alberto Gonzales on Crime
The author of an article in the July/August 2003 Atlantic Monthly found those cases memorable for other reasons, stating that Gonzales gave insufficient counsel, failed to take into consideration an array of factors, and instead actively worked against clemency in a number of borderline cases. That criticism--that he, in effect, gave his boss the legal justification he wanted--would be levied against Gonzales later on a much larger scale.
Gonzales’s memos focused heavily on repeating the purported gruesome details of the crime, no doubt making it easier for the governor to feel he was doing the right thing by denying clemency. Gonzales claimed that his execution briefings had always provided Bush a detailed factual background of what happened, along with other outstanding facts or unusual issues.
In 2002, the Supreme Court held that executing the mentally retarded is “cruel and unusual” punishment prohibited by the 8th Amendment. It was too late for Washington.
During Bush’s six years as governor 150 men and two women were executed in Texas. From 1995 to 1997, Gonzales acted as his legal counsel when the then-Governor decided whether to grant clemency, or to allow the executions to go forward. Berlow concludes that the memos reflect “an extraordinarily narrow notion of clemency.” They appear to have excluded, for instance, factors such as “mental illness or incompetence, childhood physical or sexual abuse, remorse, rehabilitation, racial discrimination in jury selection, or the competence of the legal defense.”
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