The Anniston Star has long been the voice of independent, serious journalism in the middle of Alabama. In today’s Star, I offer some comments on the Siegelman case—how justice went off the tracks, and how a consolidated print media that dominates the state from Huntsville to Mobile contributed to the injustice.
Today former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman is interned at the Oakdale Federal Correctional Institution in Louisiana, where it is said he is being given routine chores including cleaning floors. He was dragged away from his sentencing hearing bound in handcuffs and manacles on orders of federal judge Mark Fuller, who was appointed by the current President Bush and is a former member of the Executive Committee of the Alabama Republican Party.
The scene was sufficiently shocking that even staunchly conservative Republican Rep. Spencer Bachus of Birmingham questioned the treatment given the former governor. Forty-four former attorneys general from around the country, a good many of them Republicans, taking note of the often-crude irregularities in the prosecution, trial and sentencing proceedings, petitioned Congress for a special probe of the case. Congress, in the form of the House Judiciary Committee, decided to act, issuing as a first step a demand that the Justice Department supply documents relating to its prosecution of Siegelman.
Nothing quite like this has ever happened before, and it reflects a very high level of skepticism on the national stage about the quality of justice meted out by the Bush Justice Department generally, and particularly in federal courts in Alabama.