Online Journal

October 18, 2000

As many of you have heard by now, thanks to an October 13 Salon article, which some of the mainstream press have finally been shamed into picking up, George W. Bush ignored a murder confession sent to him that exonerated two other men currently in prison for the crime.

Achim Josef Marino, who is in prison on an unrelated conviction, wrote the confession to Governor Bush in February 1998, saying, "I tell you this sir.  I did this awful crime and I was alone."  He even told how evidence linking him to the crime – including the murder weapon – could be found.  The weapon could be recovered from police who confiscated it from Marino when he was arrested for another crime a week later, and the murder victim's keys and other evidence could be found, he said, at his parents' house.  They were.

What did Governor Bush do with this letter?  Nothing.

Mike Jones, a spokesman for Governor Bush, defended Bush's action, or lack thereof, by saying that the governor's office had no legal obligation to turn the letter over to the district attorney.

Gee, that sounds a lot like Vice President Gore's much ridiculed "no controlling legal authority" remark about his visit to a Buddhist Temple.  The difference?  Well, there are three differences, actually.  First, Vice President Gore has repeatedly acknowledged that he regrets the statement, and secondly, he didn't do anything wrong.  The Buddhist Temple visit was not a fundraising event.  Say it with me, folks:  Not a fundraising event.  And third, and most important, there is a huge distinction between attending a fundraiser (which, I repeat, Vice President Gore DID NOT do) and withholding exculpatory evidence in a murder trial, which Governor Bush DID.

Mr. Jones said the letter was not turned over to the District Attorney's office because Marino said he was mailing them a copy as well.  In such cases, Mr. Jones said, a letter would not be forwarded, "to avoid duplication."  Well, Thank God for that. Thank God yet another potentially disastrous "duplicated letter" scenario has been avoided.  Yes, it's much more important to make sure that the District Attorney doesn't get two copies of a murder confession than it is to see that innocent people are not kept in prison for crimes they did not commit.  I mean, if the District Attorney got two copies of every murder confession that got made, why, he might have to buy another filing cabinet.

"There is no doubt in my mind," Bush maintains, "that each person who has been executed in our state was guilty of the crime committed" and that all of his state's condemned prisoners have had "full access to the courts…and to a fair trial."

Well, Governor Bush, I'm going to use a favorite phrase of yours:  Guess what?  DNA tests have cleared Christopher Ochoa and Richard Danziger of the rape and murder for which they have served 12 years in prison.  It is reasonable, then, to assume that at least some of the other murder convictions handed down in the Texas courts were mistaken, including the case of Gary Graham, who was convicted on the testimony of one eyewitness despite five other witnesses who say he wasn't the guy.  Mr. Graham was executed for that crime a few months ago.

Still, Governor Bush's office maintains, "This matter was handled appropriately."

Oh, really?  Let's ask Christopher Ochoa and Richard Danziger if they think this matter was handled appropriately.  Let's ask them if they feel it was appropriate that they've spent 12 years and counting in prison for a crime they didn't commit.  Let's ask them if they feel it was appropriate that police exacted a phony confession out of Mr. Ochoa by warning him he would be executed if he did not confess.  Let's ask Mr. Danziger if he feels it was appropriate that the police tricked a confession out of Mr. Ochoa by falsely telling him that Mr. Danziger had confessed and was implicating him.  And let's ask Mr. Ochoa if he feels it was appropriate that he suffered such a severe beating while in prison for a crime he didn't commit that he has permanent head injuries as a result.

But worst of all is what the governor's statements say about Bush's personality.  They demonstrate a blood-chilling disregard for human life and a breathtaking lack of seriousness toward his role as arbiter of who lives and who dies in Texas.

Governor, as J.C. Watts, a member of your own party, said, "Character means doing the right thing even when nobody's looking."  When nobody was looking, Governor Bush has worked six-hour days, given tax breaks to oil companies at the expense of children's health care, used insider tips to dump stock for an $850,000 profit with no SEC penalties, used the power of his office to confiscate private property at rates well below market value to build a baseball stadium for a team he owned and reap a $15 million profit, and gleefully executed 145 people despite gross prosecutorial and law enforcement misconduct, inept defense counsel and exculpatory evidence in many cases.

People are finally starting to look, governor, and frankly, we don't like what we're seeing.

Ann Richards said, "You can put lipstick on a pig and call it Monique, but it's still a pig."  Well, Governor Bush, you can call yourself a "compassionate conservative" all you want.  The evidence indicates otherwise.

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain, folks.  That's just the real George W. Bush.  He's just hoping you don't find out until after November 7.