CNN’s Gives Liberal Dershowitz a Platform to Decry Harsh Sentence for Libby
Perhaps the surprise of Monday morning was that CNN's "American Morning" hosted liberal Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz to discuss his support of former Cheney aide Scooter Libby, whom Dershowitz says has been given too stiff of a sentence. "Considering all of the circumstances of the case, first offender, good record, generally, you wouldn’t get a sentence of that length."
Co-host Kiran Chetry asked, "So, this is a little puzzling because you are not known as a friend of this administration. Some may have been a little surprised to read that you did file this friend of the court's brief on behalf of Scooter Libby. Why?" Dershowitz explained his stance, and how the circumstances of the Libby case wasn’t "a Republican-Democrat issue for me."
Dershowitz is well-known for his liberalism and his support of Bill Clinton during the time of his impeachment. More recently, however, Dershowitz filed a friend of the court brief on behalf of Libby before his sentencing.
A transcript of the key portion from Chetry’s interview of Dershowitz:
KIRAN CHETRY: You couldn't have missed all of the media out, the big circus surrounding Paris Hilton last week. She was carted back to jail sobbing after a sheriff's deputy released her to house arrest for a medical condition. Many cried foul, saying that celebs and high-profile people get preferential treatment in the justice system. By my next guest says that that's not always the case. In the case of Paris Hilton or former vice presidential aide Scooter Libby, in fact, it is just the opposite. Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz and famed defense attorney joins us now from Boston. Thanks for being with us.
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, HARVARD LAW PROFESSOR: Thank you.
CHETRY: So, this is a little puzzling because you are not known as a friend of this administration. Some may have been a little surprised to read that you did file this friend of the court's brief on behalf of Scooter Libby. Why?
DERSHOWITZ: It was a very serious issue that was raised by the lawyers. I would have filed the same brief against special prosecutors in the Clinton case. This is not a Republican-Democrat issue for me. It is the seriousness of the issue. The judge reacted in a very childish manner by attacking the professors who had filed the briefs, saying why don't we do work on behalf of poor clients? I do half of my work pro bono, probably have represented more poor people than any active lawyer in the United States today. And other academics on the brief also have a long and distinguished history of pro bono work. Even Robert Bork, with whom I disagree about everything, represents people pro bono, and the judge was just totally out of line in making those kind of comments. But it is typical of the way judges deal with celebrity cases.
CHETRY: Yet, he did grant the request. I guess he is going to listen to these arguments on behalf of those constitutional scholars including yourself. But what is it about Libby's sentence that got you so riled up? Two and a half years, is that out of line? Would an average defendant be serving less time for perjury and obstruction of justice?
DERSHOWITZ: Well, considering all of the circumstances of the case, first offender, good record, generally, you wouldn't get a sentence of that length, especially since judges now have enormous discretion -- we'll find out in the next days or weeks how much discretion -- but they generally have discretion to tailor the sentence to the particular defendant. And...
CHETRY: You think he is getting a tougher rap here because he's a high-profile person.
DERSHOWITZ: Well I think in general, celebrities tend to get hurt on the sentencing end. Judges tend to pander to the public and want to show that they really lean over backwards to be fair. But then celebrities get some advantages as well. They are treated better in prison generally because they pose risks of violence being directed against them in prison. So, being a celebrity cuts both ways in the criminal justice system.
CHETRY: It certainly does. Some of our viewers might find you filing this brief ironic coming from the man who was part of OJ's dream team, a man most Americans believe essentially got away with murder.
DERSHOWITZ: People have a right to express views on any case. My job as a criminal defense lawyer is to present the best defense I possibly can. I don't pick my cases based on race or ideology. I pick my cases based on the legal issues. People forget that OJ Simpson was facing the death penalty when I became a consultant to his defense team, and I do many death penalty cases. In fact, that was probably the first death penalty case I ever did without it being a pro bono case. I've represented two defendants in front of the Supreme Court free. I've represented other defendants on death row free. Generally, I represent the poor and not the wealthy.