Minor's Appeal Continues | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Minor's Appeal Continues


Hiram Eastland, attorney for Paul Minor (above), filed a motion connecting Judge Priscilla R. Owen to former White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove, after which Owen removed herself from Minor's appeal.

Paul Minor never made it to his wife's funeral last week.

Minor, who is serving 11 years for judicial corruption, is appealing his conviction on the argument that the federal Justice Department under former-President George Bush and former-U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales steered prosecutions against Democrat politicians and fundraisers like Minor in an attempt to swing elections toward Republicans.

A congressional committee is investigating whether former Chief of Staff Karl Rove influenced the Justice Department under Gonzales, but Rove has repeatedly refused to answer questions from the committee under oath.

Minor asked to be released on bond April 9, pending his appeal, but 5th Circuit Court Judge Priscilla Owen, who had employed Rove as a campaign manager for $250,000 to help her in her campaign for Texas Supreme Court in 1994, refused to grant him a bond. Owen subsequently acknowledged her political connections to Rove and recused herself from the three-judge panel overseeing Minor's appeal.

The panel recognized Owen's decision to refuse Minor's bond, despite her conflict-of-interest issues, arguing that the only circumstances that had changed since the last denial was his wife's impending death. The court then put the decision to the Bureau of Prisons, not the court, but added that the "dire circumstances" of Sylvia's condition "would seem to warrant a temporary release" under U.S. law.

The Bureau of Prisons refused to act upon the request, having already allowed Minor to visit his wife in February—a visit of precisely three hours, under armed guard, wherein Sylvia remained unconscious.

After the April 9 bond denial, Minor's attorney Hiram Eastland appealed to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to influence the Bureau of Prisons, though Holder's push did not come quick enough. Sylvia, who had been married to Paul Minor for 41 years, died April 13.

Minor then appealed for a furlough to attend the funeral.

"The warden has thus far denied all requests for a furlough or temporary release or even an escorted visit to the funeral for Paul to be with his family," Eastland wrote in an April 16 letter to Holder. "Even aside from our respectful opinion that Paul's conviction should be and will be reversed for allowing him to be convicted of bribery charges with no requirement of quid pro quo proof, it would seem that the Justice Department and the Bureau of Prisons could find the common decency and a modicum of compassion to help Paul be with his family for Sylvia's services."

Holder's response came too late regarding the funeral, and Minor stayed in jail on that day, April 17.

Eastland said he did not fault Holder: "I'm most appreciative of the Justice Department for bringing this front and center with the Bureau of Prisons. I know they did bring it to their attention and asked them to review it, and for that I'm thankful, because it's not easy for things to go from zero to 60 in Washington. The Fifth Circuit denied us just a week ago."

The same three-judge panel that deferred the furlough decisions to the Bureau of Prisons is currently reviewing Minor's appeal, and voicing doubts about irregular jury instructions granted by Reagan appointee U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate during Minor's 2007 trial. Wingate had presided over the prosecution's failure to convict Minor and three other judges in 2005. Wingate removed the necessity of quid pro quo proof of bribery in the 2007 re-trial, however, and instructed the jury that they did not have to find any proof of bribery, or even find that the judges' rulings were illogical.

U.S. Department of Justice attorney Elizabeth Collery recently informed the panel that prosecutors settled for a vague corruption arrangement.

"The agreement," Collery affirmed, "was you will take this money and in some future case you will rule dishonestly for me," even though there was apparently no guarantee that the candidate would win the election or even preside over a Minor case.

The lack of detail made convicting Minor a cinch, although Eastland—who helped devise modern U.S. corruption laws—argued that the same argument could be fashioned to convict just about anyone who donates money to a judge's campaign. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, for example, donates millions of dollars to judicial candidates who favor plaintiffs and corporations, making the supreme courts of many southern states a suit-free haven for businesses.

Previous Comments


That was really sad that Minor couldn't be released to go to his wife's funeral. It's not like he's a violent criminal who would be a huge threat to society.

golden eagle

It was awful - convicted muderers and rapists are allowed to attend funerals


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