Monday, January 09, 2017
Here's a story to send chills down your spine:
When Jeff Sessions was Alabama’s attorney general, he supported the death sentence for a Ku Klux Klan member convicted of lynching a black teenager. Mr. Sessions, whose confirmation hearings for attorney general begin on Tuesday, points to this to rebut the charges of racism that have followed him for decades.
This is a newspaper article from Sessions' first hearings for the federal judgeship in the 1980s
Yet we learn more about Mr. Sessions’ legal mind-set from a look at the 40-plus death sentences he fought to uphold as Alabama’s attorney general from 1995 to 1997. He worked to execute insane, mentally ill and intellectually disabled people, among others, who were convicted in trials riddled with instances of prosecutorial misconduct, racial discrimination and grossly inadequate defense lawyering. Mr. Sessions’ eager participation in an unjust Alabama capital system makes him a frightening prospective civil rights enforcer for the nation.
Mr. Sessions secured the execution of Varnall Weeks, who believed he was God and would “reign in heaven as a tortoise” after his death. After the Supreme Court banned executions of insane people, Mr. Sessions persuaded a federal court to defer to an Alabama court’s findings that Mr. Weeks was competent enough to be killed even though he met “the dictionary generic definition of insanity.”
Mr. Sessions also pushed for the death penalty for Samuel Ivery, a black man convicted of decapitating a black woman. At his trial, Mr. Ivery claimed insanity and presented evidence that he was a paranoid schizophrenic and believed himself a “ninja of God.” The prosecutor countered during closing arguments that “this is not another case of niggeritous,” that is, racism. Mr. Ivery later argued that the slur tainted his conviction with racial bias, but the appellate court sided with Mr. Sessions in upholding his death sentence.
By contrast, a state appellate court ruled against Mr. Sessions when it reversed the conviction and death sentence of Levi Pace, a black man. His trial was tainted with racial discrimination during the selection of the grand jury foreman, and the trial court failed to strike two prospective jurors who “felt it was their duty to recommend a sentence of death, regardless of the circumstances.”
Many of the people Mr. Sessions worked to execute had received abysmal representation at trial. Holly Wood and Eugene Clemons, two black men, were both classified as “educable mentally retarded.” Yet their lawyers failed to present any proof of their intellectual disabilities, even though mitigating evidence of this type can be crucial to avoiding death sentences. At the time of their trials, Mr. Wood’s lawyer had practiced law for less than a year and Mr. Clemons’s jury didn’t have a single black member. In 1996, Mr. Sessions rebuffed both of their initial appeals. Alabama executed Mr. Wood in 2010, even after a federal court found that his I.Q. met “the definition of mental retardation.”
A lot of people had parents who thought like that. They didn't carry on the tradition.
He is also one of the primary proponents of draconian immigration laws, even proposing to close immigration altogether. He's a white supremacist. We're going to have a white supremacist for Attorney General of the United States. He's not the first. But it's a been quite a while.
Former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick wrote an emotional letter in opposition to Sessions, which you can read in full at this link:
Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick—who in 1985 worked on the defense team that represented three black civil rights leaders targeted by Sen. Jeff Sessions in the notorious voter fraud case from Alabama's Perry County—has penned a scathing letter to Senate Judiciary Committee leaders urging them to reject his appointment as attorney general.
Describing the Perry County case as a "cautionary tale" when political objectives are favored over facts, Patrick wrote: "Thirty years ago, because it was widely understood and appreciated that his appointment to the bench would raise a questions about this Committee's commitment to a just, fair and open justice system, Mr. Sessions' nomination was withdrawn on a bi-partisan basis. I respectfully suggest to you that this moment requires similar consideration and a similar outcome."
Patrick was among more than 1,100 practicing attorneys and legal scholars who wrote to Congress on Tuesday voicing similar opposition to Donald Trump's pick for attorney general. "At a time when our nation is so divided, when so many people feel so deeply that their lived experienced is unjust, Mr. Sessions is the wrong person to place in charge of our justice system," his letter continued.
Separately, multiple NAACP leaders who were protesting Sessions' nomination inside his Alabama office were arrested.
The powerful denunciation on Tuesday marks the third time in nearly three decades Patrick, now the managing director at Bain Capital, has formally challenged Sessions. He first argued against Sessions in the 1985 Perry County voter fraud case, in which three civil rights leaders were wrongly accused of tampering with absentee ballots. The following year Sessions was nominated to become a federal judge, and Patrick testified against the appointment. Sessions was rejected to serve on the federal branch in large part because of the Perry County ruling and charges of racism that sprung from the case.
Sessions' nomination has caused widespread alarm among civil rights leaders, many of whom have pointed out that his work as US Attorney in Mobile and as Alabama's senator involved efforts to dismantle voters' rights, allegations of racism, and staunch opposition to immigration. His hearing is schedule for January 10th—the same day Trump has announced he would be holding a rare press conference for reporters.
They must be worried to use up the occasion of Trump's first press conference since July as cover.
The press shouldn't let them get away with it. They ought to put Sessions at the top of the cycle.
digby 1/09/2017 12:30:00 PM