Thursday, December 15, 2005

DeLay Innocent, Bush Declares

This post's title is a reference to a headline that appeared in the Los Angeles Times about 35 years ago: "Manson Guilty, Nixon Declares."

Nixon's comment was widely considered to be an act of shocking irreponsibility, and it made headlines across the country. Although the jury was sequestered at the time, Manson was somehow able to smuggle a copy of the paper into the courtroom, and hold it up in front of the jury. The jurors were interviewed, and swore - truthfully, one hopes - that they hadn't been influenced; thus, a mistrial was narrowly averted.

Manson's stunt was an extraordinary circumstance, of course. But regardless, it was clearly improper for Nixon to make his pronouncement in the middle of a trial...not merely because it could've influenced the jury to find Manson guilty, but also because it could've forced a mistrial.

Jim VandeHei, commenting on Bush's stated belief that DeLay is innocent, notes:

It is highly unusual for a president to express an opinion about a pending legal case.
That's an exceedingly polite way of putting it. It is unusual, of course, but the reason it's unusual is that it's both outrageously stupid and ethically indefensible. Among other things, it shows clear contempt for - or ignorance of - the Sixth Amendment.

And again, the danger here is not merely that DeLay is more likely to be found innocent; given Bush's unpopularity, and the deteriorating public estimation of his honesty, Bush's comments could arguably prejudice a jury against DeLay. Whether you're for DeLay or against him, you ought to be appalled by Bush's idiocy and indiscretion in this case.

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