Of Counsel

Legal Notes on Georgia and The South

The AG in AL

Posted by Maggie on September 13, 2007

Right now I’m reading Helter Skelter, the book about the Manson family murders co-written by the prosecutor, Vincent Bugliosi.  It is riddled with facts, which is just how I like it.  When Bugliosi himself started to get involved with the story he gave a little introduction about how during his time as a DA, he’d always tried to seek justice, whether it meant a conviction or a dismissal.  As a defense attorney, I’m naturally suspicious of DA’s but I like to think there are those out there that will dismiss a case when it’s prudent to do so.

 Apparently the Attorney General of Alabama thinks differently.  Shelby County DA Robby Owens has been removed from the case of LaSamuel Gamble. Gamble was convicted of murder as was his co-defendant, who pulled the trigger. The co-defendant has his sentence reduced by the Supreme Court. Owens says it’s only fair for Gamble to have his reduced, too. Makes sense, right? Less involvement and more punishment would seem to be unjust. Attorney General Troy King sees it differently:

King called it “incredible and outrageous” for Owens to speak on behalf of Gamble, who was 19 at the time of the murders. King said he would try to have Gamble’s death penalty reinstated since Owens “acted on the side of the criminal.”

Gamble is due for a new sentencing hearing and Owens won’t be handling it, the AG’s office will. There are whiffs of politics here. Owens supported King’s rival in the AG race. And King’s position is a tad bit inconsistent:

King previously took a similar position in the case. In a brief backed by other states that supported capital punishment for juveniles, King told the U.S. Supreme Court in 2004 that putting only Gamble to death for the murders would be a “bizarre result” since he didn’t kill anyone.

Alabama needs to remember that the DA’s client is “The State,” not “the attorney general.” Maybe Vincent Bugliosi should give them a call. Or perhaps they should read Dahlia Lithwick’s recent article about what our country needs in a new AG.

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