Criminal Justice

Former Bush Attorney General Alberto Gonzales Calls for Criminal Justice Reform

Says too many innocent people go to jail because of bad forensics and poor counsel.

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White House

The push for criminal justice reform in mainstream politics continues. Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who served from 2005 to 2007 under President Bush after being his White House counsel since 2001, penned an op-ed calling for criminal justice reform in today's USA Today.

He began with an anecdote from his time as general counsel to George Bush when Bush was governor of Texas in the 1990s, and how he had to tell a young rape victim DNA evidence has revealed she identified the wrong man as her accuser. That man had been convicted and spent 12 years in jail before being exonerated.

"That story is not rare," Gonzales wrote, pointing to statistics from the National Registry of Exoneration that identified 149 convicted defendants who were exonerated in 2015. "Even one mistake is one too many and a miscarriage of justice for the individual wrongly incarcerated," Gonzales wrote. "At the same time, it is also a miscarriage of justice for victims like the one who sat in my office in 1997. For them, the guilty have gone free."

Gonzales insisted he supports "tough justice," but that any formulation of justice has to involve only the guilty being punished. He is no longer convinced "forensic science" is as solid as the law enforcement community has claimed:

Subjective, pattern-based forensic techniques such as bite mark, hair comparison and even fingerprint analysis might not have sufficient scientific foundation. Even certain types of DNA analysis are now open to reasonable questions about their capacity to connect a specific individual to a crime.

Former Reason editor Radley Balko, now of the Washington Post, has written extensively about flimflam forensics. The case of Cory Maye, an innocent man put on death row over the killing of a cop, involved forensics that was presented in a "downright misleading" way, as Balko reported.

Gonzales also pointed out the problem with public defenders and their role in contributing to bad prosecutions. Often, those accused and without resources cannot wait for a court-appointed lawyer because spending time in jail can cost their job," Gonzales wrote. "They are forced to plead guilty though they have not committed a crime."

Gonzales also brought up Guantanamo Bay and what he saw as the public's misprioritization of constitutional rights. "There appears to be more public outrage over the perceived lack of constitutional protections for foreign terrorists held in the military facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for acts committed overseas than there is for U.S. citizens wrongly convicted in this country," wrote Gonzales. "That is a sad commentary."

The evolving opinions of leading law enforcement figures like Gonzales matter, because they make it more difficult to relegate criminal justice reform to the fringes. Conversely, the devolving opinions of people like Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican presidential candidate who attached himself to criminal justice reform before worrying, dishonestly, that such reforms would lead to violent felons returning to the streets. Such political posturing is dangerous because it feeds into the ill-informed fears of a gullible public. It's certainly anathema to liberty, even as Cruz pushes hard to win the "liberty vote," such as it may be.

NEXT: After Giving Rubio a Swirlie, Chris Christie Moseys Toward the Exit

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  1. Rutgers students protest visit by Milo Yiannopoulos, allegedly by smearing menstrual blood on their faces. The article doesn’t specify that last part, but I read it on twitter so it must be true. Whatever the case, there’s quality derp on display:

    “Freedom of speech is a responsibility,” Waggeh said. “You should use your privilege to be responsible for one another. Be conscious of what you speak, because a lot of people could take your message wrong.”

    Of course, that responsibility should be arrogated by the local authorities, not shouldered by those doing the speaking.

    “(Rutgers groups) should not be inviting anyone like (Yiannopoulos) because what we stand for is inclusion and diversity,”

    LOL

    Looking past individual tweets, Waggeh said “anyone who spews hate” should not speak on campus.”Milo is a pawn in the system. What I want people to get out of this is to speak your voice,” she said. “If you have something to say, say it in moments of injustice like this.”

    Does this darling fascist realize every second sentence she utters explicitly contradicts the first?

    1. There are some speaking sense to madness, however:

      “If you’re a climate change denier, you might be upset that Bill Nye came and pushed climate change at your commencement. But those people weren’t protesting at your commencement,” said Boyer, whose own “trigger words” include Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

    2. Of course, that responsibility should be arrogated by the local authorities, not shouldered by those doing the speaking.

      I assume the evidence for this is at some other link, since it’s not in the Daily Targum story.

      1. She’s suggesting that Milo (and anyone who causes students discomfort) should be barred from speaking by the administration. So while people (by whom, presumably, she means invitees) should take care in what they say, their obligation should be preempted at the discretion of the university.

        1. She’s suggesting that Milo (and anyone who causes students discomfort) should be barred from speaking by the administration.

          Where? The only person I see suggesting that is you.

          1. You’re right; I realize now that I had read into their intention from tweets about the article. Twitter really does make you dumb.

            I guess I’ll put away my outrage boner for the next wave of commencement speech disinvitations by people voicing similar sentiments.

            1. It happens.

              1. “If your outrage boner lasts more than 2 hours, stop reading Twitter.”

              2. It’s more than a little embarrassing because not only was it careless, but I directly contradicted myself. If she’s sincere in protesting the sentiments of rather than the capacity for hostile speech, she should be commended. That’s an admirable position and one which elevates her from being loathsome to merely overly sensitive.

      2. “local authorities” = “Rutgers administration”, maybe?

      3. The opposite, actually. An editorial from the Targum, from someone sympathetic to the protesters. She actually appears to have a pretty firm grasp of free speech, and the consequences that could follow from dispensing with it.

        It is also important to remember, whether one identifies as an activist or not, is that protest is not the equivalent of censorship. If someone stands in opposition to protest, that person essentially opposes the actual embodiment of free speech. No one has called for a ban on Yiannopolous from Rutgers, nor has anyone attempted to bar anyone they oppose from speaking.

        She seems a touch confused on who, exactly, Milo is and what views he actually espouses, but otherwise the article was rather good.

        1. “Looking past individual tweets, Waggeh said “anyone who spews hate” should not speak on campus.”

          This person is apparently arguing he shouldn’t be allowed to speak at the campus at all, though.

          1. Maybe she favors the Romney policy of self-deportation censorship.

          2. Two different people. Waggeh was in commodious spittoon’s article, and in the context that we have available, only seems to say the people should say anything if they don’t have anything nice to say, not that if you don’t have anything nice to say, an armed goon from the state should forcibly shut you up. Not the worst sentiment, though I prefer when people are vocal about their idiocies so that I can accurately identify them.

        2. “” protest is not the equivalent of censorship””

          Maybe not, but its increasingly a distinction without a difference in these ‘college speaking event’ cases.

          Protesting is what you do when your counter-argument is too-shitty to present in a debate with a person.

          The effect of their protest is to make the protest the subject of any reporting, and ensure anything the speaker actually says in their speech is given zero attention or press.

          of course they have every right to stand and scream and smear blood on themselves.

          but its still pathetic, immature, a-rational etc. No one’s preventing ‘their side’ from having a voice in any debate. they simply don’t want any debate to take place.

        3. The fact is Young Americans for Liberty-types have prefaced their cause as one that loves and seeks to preserve liberty. They often charge activists with being too politically correct and sensitive. Yet it isn’t liberty they fight for or where their ideology stems from. Rather, it stems from finding placing [sic] oneself in the perspective of others, or producing some level of respect for their peer or critically engaging with history and contemporary issues seems too much of a daunting and intellectual task. Activists must be careful to waste too many resources or energy on dismantling an ideology that lacks the basic requisite for mature and conducive interactions. Time may be better spent fostering greater awareness about the many causes that activists represent.

          I can’t parse what she’s saying. By “it” does she mean that liberty or YAL’s ideology “stems from finding placing [sic] oneself in the perspective of others, or producing some level of respect for their peer or critically engaging with history and contemporary issues” ? If liberty, then what is the subject of the phrase “seems too much of a daunting and intellectual task”? \

          1. And moving on from that word-splatter, I realize Janna comes from a place where they cut off your ears if they don’t like your face (It’s barbaric, but, hey, it’s home!); however, the claim that it’s YAL’s ideology, as opposed to the ideology of the screeching, blood-adorned harpies, “that lacks the basic requisite for mature and conducive interactions” is risible.

          2. She’s saying she’s a Serious Grown Up unlike those YAL types despite the fact that she doesn’t know what the words she’s using mean.

            Hint: You can’t have ‘conducive’ interactions, something must be ‘conducive to’ a positive interaction of some kind.

            In my entire life I’ve never seen the word ‘conducive’ used in that way.

            1. You need to think more proactively, irish.

              and less-racist

              1. The only people I’m racist against are those from Badgrammaristan

            2. She also claimed that Yiannopoulos was “homophobic”. I don’t think Janna Aladdin is a real person; I believe she is the output of a Markov-chain based text generator constructed by Rutgers’s Linguistics department.

              1. I didn’t find the writing that horrendous, but that is taking into consideration that she describes herself as “School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in public health and Middle Eastern studies with minors in history and women’s and gender studies”. As most writing examples from people that focus on “aggrieved community x studies” are generally less coherent than a random string generated by a cat walking on a keyboard, I was grading it on a very steep curve.

            3. ? air-conditioner cooling towers on the roof provided a conducive summertime abode, from which the germs circulated throughout the edifice in a fine infectious mist. ?Wayne Biddle, A Field Guide to Germs, 1995

              http://www.merriam-webster.com…../conducive

              1. And how do I know the Merriam Webster website didn’t make a mistake including that? I do not, and since I don’t want to admit that I’m wrong, I’ll stick to my probably incorrect assertion.

              2. No, it still includes a prepositional phrase “from which the germs…” that completes the information semantically required by the verb “conducive”. Aladdin didn’t specify to what the “conversations” would be conducive.

              3. No, it still includes a prepositional phrase “from which the germs…” that completes the information semantically required by the verb “conducive”. Aladdin didn’t specify to what the “conversations” would be conducive.

              4. No – that example actually shows what the environment was “conducive” to – its modifying ‘circulation’

    3. Nyuma Waggeh, a School of Arts and Sciences junior and one of the protestors, believes Yiannopoulos’s comments cross the line between hate speech and free speech.

      There is no line, you ignorant fucking twit. There is just free speech, period. Offensive, unpopular speech is what the first amemendment is intended to protect, since inoffensive, popular speech needs no protection. Rutgers actually used to be a fine school.

      1. Hate speech is a subset of free speech, not a separate category.

    4. It’s different when they do it, CS.

      Also notice how she characterized “freedom of speech” as a “responsibility,” then as a “privilege.” Clueless.

      1. A lot of my privileges come with responsibilities.

      2. Actually, what I was responding to was the contradiction I (mis)read into her statement. Taking responsibility for your speech is a fine sentiment, because it means dealing with the consequences of voicing an opinion. On that she and I and any 1A absolutist would agree. But the call to ban speakers (which, belatedly, I mistakenly attributed to her) runs flagrantly counter to that notion and puts the onus of responsibility on administrators rather than individuals.

      3. It’s neither. It’s a right.

    5. Feminists want to do away with gender pronouns in that they’re all so disgustingly fat no one can tell what sex they are anyway.

      That was unhelpful and plays right into their narrative.

      1. Fuck’em if they can’t take a joke.

    6. I bet she’d have voted for Woodrow Wilson and supported the Creel Committee and Palmer Raids.

  2. “Former political appointee takes brave stand when it no longer matters: Film at 11”

      1. this scumbag built a career around poking holes in constitutional barriers, and ensuring that enforcement of the law was as politicized *as possible*.

        rarely was there ever an AG who took an “Ends justify the means” approach to law. or helped institutionalize a FYTW attitude at the Justice department

        now he’s whining that people are unfairly prosecuted? say it aint so, Alberto

    1. Yep. Too little, too late, asshat.

      1. Meh. If it can help convince other people that maybe reform is necessary, I’ll give him credit for that.

        1. Ok, so he promised to not smoke in the hayloft ever again once the barn burnt to the ground.

          1. Sometimes you have to burn down a burn to learn that playing with something burning amongst flammable goods is a bad idea?

    2. The evolving opinions of leading law enforcement figures like Gonzales matter

      Yes, the fact that their positions “evolve” only once they’re out of office and their opinions don’t mean jack shit should tell you how horribly screwed up the system is that people who should have the power to change things can’t change things. The government is truly a machine that runs itself. Had Gonzalez tried changing anything (assuming the lying turd had any intention of changing things – for the better, not by going full Stasi, I mean) I have little doubt he would have accomplished exactly as much as he’s accomplishing right now; flapping his gums and wasting oxygen.

  3. Gonzales also brought up Guantanamo Bay and what he saw as the public’s misprioritization of constitutional rights. “There appears to be more public outrage over the perceived lack of constitutional protections for foreign terrorists held in the military facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for acts committed overseas than there is for U.S. citizens wrongly convicted in this country,” wrote Gonzales. “That is a sad commentary.”

    I guess it’s fair to call it a “perceived lack of constitutional protections” when constitutional protections are not being upheld and people perceive it.

    1. Does the Constitution protect the rights of non-citizens? Many, including I am assuming Gonzalez, believe it doesn’t.

      1. The NAP protects the rights on non-citizens. Too bad we couldn’t get it amended to the social contract…

      2. The Constitution limits the powers of the federal government. The Fifth Amendment in particular specifically says that no person blah blah blah inalienable rights yadda yadda.

        1. Inalienable rights doesn’t include foreigners, Hugh. /sarc

          Incidentally, the other day I heard a white nationalist seriously argue that because the Preamble contains the phrase “themselves and their posterity” the constitution only applies to white Christians because the people signing the constitution were all white Christians so that’s who is meant by their ‘posterity.’

          Of course, if that sentence actually meant “this only applies to our posterity,” then no one descended from immigrants who arrived here after 1787 would be protected by the Constitution, which includes like 80% of all white people.

          White nationalists apparently have a rough time with vocabulary.

          1. You WOULD be listening to white nationalists.

          2. Wouldn’t Sally Hemming’s decendents be included in that “posterity”?

      3. Last time I read it, the Constitution specified limits on government. Period. Not limits on government action toward citizens.

        1. You and Hugh beat me to it.

        2. Regardless of what it actually says, I’m willing to bet that if you polled the general public I bet more than 1/3 of all people would say it doesn’t protect non-citizens. In fact, I bet if you polled law school professors you could get a large number that say it doesn’t.

          FFS, our president was a Constitutional law professor at one a top law school, and he thinks it gives him the power to do whatever the fuck he wants.

          1. Well that’s the distinction between ‘what the Constitution says’ and ‘what the government can get away with’. Written law is just a fig leaf giving the state the appearance of regularity when it does whatever the fuck it wants.

            1. Right, but I didn’t write that the Constitution doesn’t protect those things. I wrote that the majority of people believe it doesn’t. We should take the win. A good, Bush conservative came out in favor of reform. I also agree with him that our priority and focus should be on criminal justice reform over Gitmo.

      4. Whether or not the Constitution protects the rights of non-citizens, I’m pretty sure it protects the rights of non-citizens who find themselves involuntary guests of Uncle Sam. That’s exactly why they had to invent this whole “enemy combatant” thing – they’re not POW’s to the extent that the Geneva Convention protects them, not not POW’s to the extent that they can appeal to the Constitution. You make them an un-person so there’s “no controlling legal authority” as they say, much the same as a kid arguing “well, you never said specifically that I wasn’t supposed to douse the dog in gasoline and set him on fire so how was I supposed to know that was wrong?”

        1. Instead of setting the dog on fire, next time use the “was it wrong to have sex with the cleaning lady” example.

        2. So then the Constitution protects all people everywhere?

  4. It’s great to see people coming forward about reform, but fuck, man, it would be nice to see them do it when they’re in an actual position to make a difference. I guess that’s too much to ask.

    1. You don’t get to an actual position to make a difference by saying that you want to make an actual difference.

    2. Except he’s not coming forward about reform, he’s coming forward about Alberto Gonzales. Reform is just the noise coming out of his mouth because that’s what gets his name in the news again.

  5. Doesn’t believe in habeas corpus.

    Fuck off slaver.

  6. Anyone else ever notice how all of these ‘former’ government employees talk about how corrupt the organizations are that they worked for and how they need reformed, but none of them ever speak up about anything when they’re the one actually doing things that they now disapprove of? It’s something not quite hypocrisy, it’s just them putting #1 ahead of anything else. Human nature in action. This is something progs apparently can never understand, that if you put ‘people’ in charge of things, people will behave like people and promote their own self interest ahead of anything else. In this case, self interest being job security and more tax payer money for themselves. Progs cannot comprehend the simple fact that if you give the government more power, that just gives them more power that they can and WILL abuse. Libertarians have it right, the only way to make things better is to limit government.

    1. The only thing that limits government is the people in it. The Constitution, as written, spells out a pretty limited government. But when all three branches collude in ignoring the limitations set out in that document, then it may as well not even exist.

  7. Can we add “former political figure comes out in favor of libertarian idea when he no longer has any power” to the reason drinking game? Seems to happen a lot.

    1. So you’re racist against my liver, too?

  8. I bet if you asked him, he’d say he’s “evolved” on these issues.

    So he’s basically saying when he was AG, he was an irrational, unprincipled retard. But he’s better now.

    1. He’s had some time to think about all the lives he’s ruined directly and indirectly. It’s got to weigh on any man who isn’t a complete sociopath.

      1. Except he also still thinks Guantanamo is totally cool, so…

      2. I’d like to give him some more time to think about it, while being confined to a small “thinking space.”

    2. I don’t think he’s evolved at all. In fact, I think he still believes that Guantanamo is fine because we are jailing enemies during wartime and as far as he’s concerned they don’t get constitutional rights.

      He’s talking about how messed up our criminal justice system is, specifically in regards to forensic evidence and how unscientific it can be.

      I agree with those stating that it’s a little late for him to say this considering he could’ve done more when he was in office, but I don’t think this is much of an evolution.

      1. Ummm..I wasn’t talking about Gitmo. I was talking about his “evolution” on criminal justice issues. When he was AG he said nothing about the fucked up nature of criminal justice in the U.S., even though he was well aware of the problems, at least as far back as 1997.

          1. Hispanic. Immigration reform. Not surprising.

            1. I agree he should have done more when he was AG, but I disagree that he suddenly arrived at this conclusion through an evolution of thinking. I believe he’s felt this way since he had that rape case in 1997.

  9. Always good when people like this see the light, but god damn, it’d be nice if they had these epiphanies while they are in a position to do something about it.

    1. Isn’t that what happened to JFK?

      /tips tinfoil hat

    2. “Growing in office” only works one way.

  10. So which relative of his got popped for a non-violent drug offense and is now facing a severe sentence?

  11. This is why Hillary has already won the dem nomination:

    Hillary comes out tied with Bernie delegate count from NH

    So Hillary basically did just as well in NH despite losing by 32%. That’s a fucking landslide. The Berntards are victims of their own philosophy. So did you retards really think that communism is about democracy and fair play? Hahahaahahaa! You’ll never fucking learn!

    1. I like how when super-delegates and other non-committeds back a Democrat who lost, it’s a testament to Hillary’s political acumen and deep support within the party, but when Republicans mention a similar strategy, it’s a usurpation of the political process and an affront to the will of the people.

      1. You mean the left judges the person, not their deeds? Principals trump principles? I never!

      2. She won in Iowa by winning 6 out of 6 coin flips and walked away with all the delegates. We still don’t know who won the popular vote, but I bet it was Bernie! These people are the undisputed champions of corruption. And half of Americans support them! We are so fucked.

        1. What does the Dem rank and file do if their votes are completely ignored and Hillary wins purely through corruption?

          1. Submits

          2. What the hell are you talking about? They’re unionized, they’re used to being governed by corrupt sociopaths with no regard whatsoever for the will of the people they’re governing. Hell, what the hell am I talking about? They’re not just used to it, they embrace it! You don’t get to be a big-shot Dem without slapping people around and making them eat shit and say they love it just to prove you’ve got the stuff it takes to be a big-shot Dem. The more Hillary cheats, the more the Dems respect her for her proven ability to cheat. If she’ll fuck us this hard, just imagine what she’ll do to the GOP!

            1. Conversely, the devolving opinions of people like Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican presidential candidate who attached himself to criminal justice reform before worrying, dishonestly, that such reforms would lead to violent felons returning to the streets. Such political posturing is dangerous because it feeds into the ill-informed fears of a gullible public. It’s certainly anathema to liberty, even as Cruz pushes hard to win the “liberty vote,” such as it may be.

              See, we criticize Cruz for being a lying shitbag, but being a lying shitbag proves how hard he’ll work to win, how dedicated he is to doing whatever it takes to win. Why would you not support the guy willing to go the furthest, no matter how loathsome and disgusting and immoral and criminal, in order to win? He’s a winner!

          3. Then they say they supported her the entire time because rethuglicans, something something…

  12. It’d be nice if more people would call for reform while they’re in office, not when they’re ‘former’.

    1. I imagine they don’t because doing so pretty much guarantees being ‘former’ a lot sooner than planned.

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