Opinion » Columnists

Ward Churchill: The lie lives on

Pages: 123

Make no mistake about it: America's so-called legal "system" is hopelessly and intransigently corrupt.

In fact, if this "system" were beholden to its own laws, it would undoubtedly be guilty of fraud, extortion, obstruction of justice and conspiracy.

Of course, this reality should be self-evident, considering that men like Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito, John Roberts and Anthony Kennedy preside at its summit-the United States Supreme Court.

These five so-called "justices" are paradigms of legal realism-the judicial philosophy now infecting American jurisprudence. Legal realism contends that there is no such thing as law, only the whims of judges who make decisions based upon their own biases, political agendas and/or economic interests and then label them "law."

Legal realism is why these despicable "justices" have demonstrated no compunction about reversing decades of racial progress, ignoring legal precedent, and making individual rights and freedoms subordinate to corporate rights and freedoms.

But if the self-serving legal "opinions" of these five men are not enough to expose the legal "system's" corruption, there is always the disingenuous adage that "nobody is above the law."

Police officers who use excessive force, commit perjury, or fabricate evidence to obtain fraudulent convictions are rarely prosecuted, and if they are, they are usually acquitted. Even in the rare case of a conviction, such officers are usually given a proverbial "slap on the wrist" as punishment.

In addition, prosecutors who have intentionally withheld exculpatory evidence, suborned perjury, utilized "junk science," exploited racism, or engaged in similar misconduct to obtain guilty verdicts are frequently rewarded with judgeships or lucrative private law practices, and, in some cases, have even been reelected as prosecutors after their misconduct was revealed.

Meanwhile, the wrongfully accused and/or convicted often receive little or nothing in compensation for the injury to their reputations, the expenses incurred defending themselves, or the years of wrongful imprisonment they've suffered.

In South Bend, Indiana, for example, a federal magistrate denied any compensation to Richard Alexander, an African-American man who spent over five years in prison for crimes he did not commit. In speciously rationalizing this denial, this magistrate contended that Alexander failed to prove that he had been prosecuted in "bad faith."

In other words, to obtain compensation for an injustice, a wrongfully convicted person has to become a mind reader capable of discerning the intentions and motivations of the very people who investigated, prosecuted and imprisoned him.

Not surprisingly, the chief prosecuting attorney at the time Alexander was convicted subsequently became an appeals court judge, and the deputy prosecutor who actually tried Alexander was appointed to a judgeship in superior court.

This corruption of the legal "system" even occurs at the highest echelons of the federal government, which means that the federal agencies responsible for investigating abuses and corruption at the state and local levels may actually be more abusive and corrupt than the people they are investigating.

FBI agents who violate the rights of targeted individuals are routinely insulated from criminal charges by so-called "immunity" doctrines. Even on those rare occasions when agents are prosecuted and convicted, they are usually pardoned, as then-president Ronald Reagan demonstrated in the early 1980s. Yet the people whose rights they've violated often languish in prison for decades, and some still remain there to this day.

Nothing, however, invalidates the "nobody is above the law," adage more completely than the legal "system's" conspicuous disregard of the crimes committed during George W. Bush's illegal occupancy of the White House.

Lawsuits against former Attorney General John Ashcroft for abusing the "material witness" statute after the September 11, 2001 attacks have been routinely dismissed, and even the case that has worked its way up to the Supreme Court-Ashcroft v. al-Kidd-has seen the Obama administration, which rode into the White House on the promises of "hope" and "change," zealously defending Ashcroft's abuses.

In addition, allegations of wrongdoing against Ashcroft's successor, Alberto Gonzales, for the politically motivated firing of nine federal prosecutors resulted in no charges being brought, and advocates of torture, like former Justice Department attorneys John Yoo and Jay Bybee, were simply scolded for using "bad judgment."

Funny how the same legal defenses the United States government would reject and ridicule if invoked by foreign war criminals suddenly become acceptable when advocated by its own war criminals.

And, speaking of war criminals, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Donald Rumsfeld and others of their ilk now have lucrative careers writing books, giving speeches and appearing on talk shows.

Finally, as if to top off this mélange of injustice and hypocrisy, it was recently announced by assistant United States attorney John Durham (not surprisingly, a Bush administration appointee) that former CIA official Jose Rodriguez Jr. would not face criminal charges for destroying tapes that purportedly showed CIA agents torturing detainees.

Pages: 123

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