I was very interested to see that you argued for the commutation of the prison sentence of Scooter Libby. You see, I know this guy who is 20 years into a life sentence. He was a Navy analyst and got caught spying for another country. Did he deserve to go to jail? Sure, but not for life. The country in question was an ally of the United States, the prosecution reneged on its plea agreement, the judge let in some questionable testimony during the sentencing stage, and by now this fellow has suffered enough. What should he do? Do you think you could get Scooter to put in a good word for him?
Alan Dershowitz replies:
I did not argue for commutation of the prison sentence of Scooter Libby. I joined a brief written by 12 professors arguing that the legal issues in Libby’s appeal were serious and substantial, and that he should be given bail pending appeal. I would join the same brief for any appellant who had significant issues on appeal, since I am appalled by the trend toward locking people up while their appeals are pending. I have seen innocent defendants languish in prison only to see their convictions reversed, but they can’t get back the year they unjustly spent behind bars.
As for Jonathan Pollard, I have devoted enormous energy to try to get his sentence commuted. I petitioned President Clinton repeatedly to commute his sentence, and I have publicly railed against the excessiveness of the Pollard sentence and the fact that the government reneged on its plea agreement. We must continue to fight for justice for Jonathan Pollard.
Alan Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. He is the author of numerous books, including “Chutzpah,” “The Vanishing American Jew,” “The Genesis of Justice,” “The Case for Israel,” “The Case for Peace” and, most recently, “Blasphemy: How the Religious Right is Hijacking the Declaration of Independence.”