Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Okay, Losing Control

This article simply has to be read in order to be believed. I know that, supposedly, Mississippi African-Americans don't regard Judge Charles W. Pickering as a racist, but, uh, it's really kind of difficult not to find warrant to be really really really wary of the man, who, we shouldn't forget, has been nominated twice by Junior Bush for the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Federal District Court Judge Charles W. Pickering Sr. was angry that a 20-year-old man convicted of burning a cross on an interracial couple's lawn faced a lengthy prison term under mandatory federal sentencing rules.

[. . .]

But Pickering was so incensed about the length of the sentence that he telephoned a friend at the department's headquarters in Washington, and demanded in a sealed order that Attorney General Janet Reno review the case. According to a Justice Department memo obtained by The Washington Post, he also threatened to overturn the jury's verdict even though he agreed it was lawful.

[. . .]

In the cross-burning case, Pickering's pressure led the Justice Department to take the extraordinary step of withdrawing one of the three criminal charges of which Swan had been convicted, which reduced his sentence from more than seven years to 27 months. Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee cited the judge's handling of the case as their principal reason for rejecting his nomination last year.

Bush, several months after telling an audience in Jackson, Miss., that "the Senate did wrong by Judge Pickering," renominated him in January.

And the money quote:

"Sometimes, youthful pranks under the influence of alcohol on a cold winter night can get you in a heap of trouble. And that's what happened," Pickering told Swan at his sentencing that day.

I've only picked out the most explicit bits about the 1994 case itself; there's loads more in here to chew on.