Putting Political Prosecutions on the Defensive | Harper's Magazine

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Putting Political Prosecutions on the Defensive

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Earlier this month, in a courtroom in Savannah, Georgia, attorneys for former Georgia senate majority leader Charles Walker took on the prosecution. There was already some evidence that Walker was the target in a politically-motivated hit job, Nathan Dershowitz argued. The judge hearing the matter acknowledged that politically-directed prosecutions were a fact of life dating back to the early days of the Republic, but he bore down on the quality and sufficiency of Walker’s evidence, which rested largely on newspaper accounts. Prosecutors disparaged this as a “CNN case” and insisted that the court disregard newspaper reports entirely. I report on the hearing and the broader implications of the case in this feature for the Huffington Post.

Just how solid is Walker’s case? I outlined the facts earlier in “The Justice Department Raises a Rebel Yell.” In the meantime, more evidence has turned up in the records of the U.S. Attorney’s office. In one email, Morgan Perry, the director of the Senate Republican Caucus, notes that Walker is the target of research by Republican campaign organizations trying to link him to criminal conduct, and says that “it’s up to us to take him out.” The email creates the inescapable impression that the U.S. Attorney’s investigation of Walker was being coordinated with Republican political operatives and was done in the interests of giving the party an advantage in upcoming elections. Courts have historically declined to allow an examination of the bona fides of a prosecution in political cases, but in the face of mounting evidence of misconduct and bad-faith motives, as recently shown in the prosecution of former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, the tide seems to be turning.

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