Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Blagojevich and Fair Trial 1, Fitzgerald 0

I noted with satisfaction that the jury in Illinois convicted former Gov. Rod Blagojevich of only 1 of 24 counts against him, and the least dire count at that.  I said at the time Patrick Fitzgerald announced his intention to seek indictments for Blagojevich that people are innocent until proven guilty in this country, and that includes hard-ball, even unsavory, politicians, who should not be run out of office just on a prosecutor's say so.

I knew Fitzgerald and his record all too well, having spoken out in USA Today (see last paragraph) and elsewhere about his getting a Federal judge to throw New York Times reporter Judith Miller in jail for refusing to reveal her sources in stories Fitzgerald deemed pertinent to the Valerie Plame affair.   Any prosecutor who seeks to put a reporter in jail for not revealing her or his sources is in my book an enemy of democracy.   The First Amendment may in literal law allow that, but tossing reporters in jail, taking away their liberty, for failing to cooperate with the prosecution is deeply offensive to the spirit of the First Amendment*, and the jobs of reporters it seeks to protect - the job of bringing crucial information to the American people.   Lack of a Federal shield law, and a judge tone-deaf to freedom of information, is what enabled Fitzgerald to do his dirty work, but he still deserves the lion's share of the blame for bringing his request to a judge in the first place.

Just as Fitzgerald now deserves the lion's share of the blame for wasting millions of tax-payer dollars and years of time in an unsuccessful prosecution of Blagojevich.   Fitzgerald says he intends to press on with a second trial on the same charges.   Clearly they don't have much merit, if a jury presented all of the evidence collected by Fitzgerald over the years failed to convict.

I know nothing directly about Blagojevich's actions.   But it seems clear that the jury, under enormous public pressure, did mostly the right thing in this case.

*Restriction of communication by non-governmental public agents such TV networks that censor language or universities that prohibit certain speakers would be a different kind of violation of the First Amendment.
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