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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

"The anthrax mystery "

The Rocky discusses the federal government's $2.825 million settlement with Steven Hatfill.

The Rocky explains
officials had little choice but to pay Hatfill after the single-minded, clumsy way the FBI handled its investigation into the mailing of anthrax-laced envelopes in 2001 that killed five, including two postal workers, while sickening a number of others.

Hatfill became the center of the FBI's investigation - and for all we know the bureau's only suspect - after Attorney General John Ashcroft recklessly identified him as "a person of interest." It is the same term that was used when Richard Jewell was wrongly named in the 1996 Atlanta bombing case. You'd think federal officials would have absorbed the lesson from that case. Not so. They'd rather reassure the public in a high-profile terrorist act that the perpetrator is in their sights - even if the full weight of the evidence says something else entirely.

And in the process, they ruined a man's life.

This is why I have have the utmost respect for criminal defense lawyers. Without them, people like Hatfield and Jewell would be railroaded to jail.

As I have said many times: "Anybody can be accused of anything by anyone at any time."

An accusation is not evidence. Too often, the public thinks it is.

Hatfield and Jewell - and many others - prove this.

Remember those Duke lacrosse players? If they had been poor, they would have gone to jail.

(And that is not a slam on public defenders. Public defenders, largely, are among the best criminal defense lawyers out there. It is just that public defenders get 100's of cases they must defend, whereas private criminal defense attorneys can take a few cases at a time.)

The Rocky adds:
Writing on the ABC News Web site, former FBI agent Brad Gannon, based on firsthand experience, offered this explanation: "The anthrax investigation, almost from the beginning, was hampered by top-heavy leadership from high ranking, but inexperienced FBI officials, which led to a close-minded focus on just one suspect and amateurish investigative techniques that robbed agents in the field of the ability to operate successfully."

This type of "close-minded focus" is not limited to high profile or federal cases. It happens every single day in every law enforcement office in America.

Being "tough on crime" does not mean that we should be "tough on the accused."

The accused are not convicted.

Who among us might not one day be accused?

If you are, be thankful for criminal defense attorneys.

1 comment:

  1. Well said, especially with the evaporation of Habeus Corpus. We otherwise would have no chance to ever rise up in opposition to our accusers.