Sunday, January 22, 2006

Paul Morrison and the Death Penalty

During the Senate hearing for Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, Sen. Ted Kennedy and other Democrats attempted to use the nominee’s membership in the Concerned Alumni of Princeton (CAP) against him. The effort failed after we learned Alito was not an active member of the group. In addition, the 1983 essay from CAP’s magazine, Prospect, which Democrats presented as evidence that Alito favored “restrictions on the admission of minorities and women” at Princeton, turned out to be a satirical piece.

In the end, the Senate confirmed Alito to serve on the Supreme Court. The hypocritical Kennedy, meanwhile, announced he would finally sever ties with the Owl Club, a former Harvard college social club that bans female members.

While Alito’s membership in an alumni group three decades ago should not have been an issue in his confirmation hearing, Paul Morrison’s membership in the Vera Institute of Justice is a different matter.

Morrison, who currently serves as Johnson County’s district attorney, announced last October that he was switching parties to run as a Democrat in the Kansas Attorney General race. The Vera Institute’s Web site lists Morrison as an associate in the institute’s State Sentencing and Corrections Program. A biography of Morrison mailed to members of a Kansas City group in 2004 called the Vera Institute “a public policy group which promotes sentencing reform in the United States.”

According to the Capital Research Center, the Vera Institute received a total of $1,159,700 from the Open Society Institute (OSI) in 2001 and 2002. The Vera Institute in 2000 received an additional grant of $50,000 from OSI as part of OSI’s Gideon Project.

OSI, of course, is a private operating and grantmaking foundation whose chairman is George Soros, the billionaire financier who, according to the Center for Responsive Politics (another OSI grantee), contributed $23,450,000 to America Coming Together, MoveOn.org, and several other anti-Bush 527 committees during the 2004 election cycle.

Other Gideon Project grantees include the ACLU Capital Punishment Project, the Death Penalty Information Center, the Illinois Death Penalty Education Project, the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, People of Faith Against the Death Penalty, and the Tides Death Penalty Mobilization Fund. All of these groups oppose the death penalty.

OSI’s Gideon Project also provided a grant to The Culture Project, an off-Broadway theater company. The purpose of the grant was to “support for the New York production of ‘The Exonerated,’ a performance piece of monologues culled from interviews with former death row inmates; and support for special productions in Baltimore and Chicago.”

The TV-movie version of The Exonerated featured prominent Hollywood liberals such as Susan Saradon and Danny Glover and purported to tell the stories of six innocent survivors of death row.

However, as USA Today noted in January 2005, prosecutors from two of the cases portrayed in the film said “the movie's producers ignored plea bargains, witness statements and transcripts of police interrogations that cast significant doubt on the innocence claims of Sonia Jacobs, a Florida woman who was convicted of killing two police officers, and Kerry Max Cook, a Texas man who was convicted of mutilating a neighbor.” Further, “Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), an anti-capital punishment group, says it does not consider Jacobs or Cook as innocent because both accepted plea bargains.” DPIC is also an OSI grantee.

Another OSI grantee, Big Mouth Productions, produced Deadline, a film about the now-indicted former governor of Illinois, George Ryan, who issued a blanket commutation covering all 171 Illinois death-row inmates.

OSI’s Web site also notes that a 2005 CNN documentary, Reasonable Doubt: Can Crime Labs Be Trusted?, was “based on the investigative reporting of a Soros Justice Media Fellow.” According to OSI, “Reasonable Doubt reveals that many of the forensic ‘sciences,’ such as fingerprint identification and hair analysis, have never been scientifically validated.”

“For two decades, I’ve worked with the state legislature to strengthen the laws that keep Kansans safe,” Morrison stated last October when announcing his candidacy for attorney general. “Helping author our state’s death penalty statute.” A week later KMBZ’s Jerry Agar asked Morrison if, in light of the Kansas Supreme Court throwing out the state's 1994 death penalty law and his recent refusal to seek the death penalty against Benjamin Appleby, he still wanted to take credit for helping to write the Kansas death penalty law. “First of all, Jerry, I’m going to correct you,” Morrison responded. “I’ve never taken credit for writing the Kansas death penalty law. What I said was I helped craft it. And that’s true. There were some senators that were working on that in 1994 and they sought my input.”

Just as Morrison appears unsure whether he helped author the Kansas death penalty law or merely helped craft it by offering input, he appears uncertain about his support for the death penalty. He states that he supports it and has even sought it in a few cases. However, his associate membership the Vera Institute, an organization that received a grant from OSI to provide “Project support for a workshop on how defenders can use ‘spotlight justice moments’ (e.g., policing scandals and death penalty exonerations) to initiate discussion of criminal justice reforms in their own jurisdictions,” raises some serious questions. As Joshua Marquis noted on National Review Online in January 2005, “George Soros is funding studies, plays, and television ‘documentaries’ with the specific goals of abolishing the death penalty and what he calls ‘reducing the reliance on prisons,’ usually by seeking to discredit American law enforcement.”

If Morrison belongs to an organization that advances OSI’s agenda to discredit law enforcement, how seriously can we take his promise to Kansans to return “a law-and-order focus to their Attorney General’s office”?

1 Comments:

Blogger Agnostick said...

How serious can you take a lawyer who lets his law license expire?

Would you trust a surgeon who let his/her medical license expire?

Agnostick
agnostick@excite.com

12:36 PM  

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