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Who's Worse: Blagojevich or Fitzgerald?

Has U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald absconded with Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich's presumption of innocence and right to a fair trial? If so, whose conduct -- that alleged of Blagojevich or that seen of Fitzgerald -- is more abominable? These are questions Carolyn Elefant asked here last month, and now trial lawyer Gerry Spence raises them on his blog in a post entitled, "Guilty Until Proven Innocent." Never one to mince words, Spence accuses Fitzgerald of acting more like a jury than a prosecutor.

Mr. Fitzgerald has absconded with the governor’s presumption of innocence. The prosecutor has abused the immense power of his office to transform otherwise innocent members of the public -- all of us -- into persons who, as a result of Mr. Fitzgerald’s releases to the media, have already decided the governor’s case before we have been provided the first word of sworn testimony in a court of law.

Even assuming the charges against the governor to be true, it is the conduct of the prosecutor that is of greater concern, Spence argues.

The act of the governor results in his illegal enrichment and constitutes a serious undermining of our representative system. The act of the prosecutor results in the wrongful destruction of an American citizen’s rights and casts a threatening shadow over the entire judicial system charged with the duty to secure our constitutional protections.

The bar, the courts and the media have been complacent in this through their silence, Spence suggests.

Mr. Fitzgerald’s conduct transcends this case. What we witness without a whimper from the media, the courts, or the bar is a prosecutor charged with the highest professional duty to see that every accused, no matter how guilty, obtains a fair trial, and who, instead, in this historical instant, has voluntarily taken steps to see that such a right becomes little more than a sad, distant echo of a justice system that once set the standard for the world.

In contrast to Spence, USA Today compares Fitzgerald to TV cop Joe Friday, describing him as having a "strait-laced, just-the-facts ma'am style" and sharing with Blagojevich's defense counsel Ed Genson "a strong vision of right and wrong ... and a belief in the system." What do you think about his tactics in this case? Has Fitzgerald tried and convicted Blagojevich without ever even filing formal charges? Or do the circumstances justify the means?

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on January 12, 2009 at 12:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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