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January 15, 2006



You've probably seen this, but just in case... James Taranto has a nice comment today in OpinionJournal:

Please Allow Me to Introduce Myself http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/13/AR2006011301695_pf.html

David Broder, the Washington Post's respected senior columnist, has an oddly foolish criticism of Sam Alito:

*** QUOTE ***

At no point that I heard did Alito express sympathy for the men and women who came to his court looking for help--and were turned away. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) asked him about some of those people.

One was a black man convicted of murder by an all-white jury sitting in a courtroom where local prosecutors had eliminated all African American jurors in five consecutive murder trials in the space of a year. Alito, dissenting from a verdict overturning the conviction, wrote that the makeup of the jury was no more significant than the fact that "Although only about 10 [percent] of the population is left-handed, left-handers have won five of the last six presidential elections."

Durbin asked why he had used an analogy that his fellow judges had called totally inappropriate and suggestive of a disregard of "the history of discrimination against prospective black jurors and black defendants."

Alito responded, "Well, the analogy . . . went to the issue of statistics and the use and misuse of statistics, and the fact that statistics can be quite misleading . . . that's what that was referring to. There's a whole--statistics is a branch of mathematics, and there are ways to analyze statistics so that you draw sound conclusions from them and avoid erroneous conclusions from them."

That perfectly bureaucratic response betrays not the slightest doubt about the human consequences of his reasoning.

*** END QUOTE ***

Broder is not a very effective sob sister. Here he is faulting Alito for his lack of "sympathy," yet he himself doesn't care enough to tell us anything about the defendant in this case--not even his name. Broder's unnamed "black man" turns out to be James William Riley. Reading the majority opinion in Riley v. Taylor http://vls.law.vill.edu/Locator/3d/July1995/95a1114p.txt , we get to know him a little better:

*** QUOTE ***

After a five and one-half day trial, a jury convicted Riley of two counts of first degree murder (felony murder and intentional murder), second degree conspiracy, possession of a deadly weapon during the commission of a felony and robbery in the first degree. The convictions arose out of a liquor store robbery by Riley and co-defendants, Tyrone Baxter ("Baxter") and Michael Williams ("Williams"). During the robbery, the liquor store owner resisted and hit Riley with a bottle of wine. Riley shot the owner twice, killing him. . . .

The State's case was largely based on Baxter's and Williams's testimony. After the jury found Riley guilty, it heard evidence on whether he should be sentenced to death or life imprisonment. The jury unanimously recommended death, and the state trial court sentenced Riley to be hung [sic].

*** END QUOTE ***

Two judges of the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, over Alito's dissent, overturned Riley's conviction. Riley was retried and convicted again. So Broder is telling us that there is something wrong with Alito because he doesn't "express sympathy" for a guy who knocked over a liquor store and murdered the owner.

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