Former U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton expressed relief that the Justice Department is no longer seeking to execute a defendant in the case that was cause for his termination. Charlton told the Associated Press that he did not think the government had sufficient evidence to pursue the death penalty in the prosecution of Jose Rios Rico. Charlton’s boss, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, wanted him to pursue it anyway and testified to a Senate panel that he fired Charlton over his “poor judgment” in the case. The present administration has reached a plea deal with Rico that takes the death penalty off the table. “A more seasoned group of individuals are reviewing these decisions now,” Charlton said of the Department of Justice. Charlton also noted that the Justice Department resisted spending money to exhume a body in the Rico matter despite the fact that this would likely have helped the prosecution’s case.

Charlton was one of the nine U.S. attorneys who were fired in 2006 in a controversial move by the Bush administration. Congressional investigations, an internal Justice Department inquiry, and calls on Capitol Hill for the resignation of Gonzales followed. Regarding Gonzalez, Charlton said, “Attorney General Gonzales and his deputy attorney general were primarily concerned with the dogma and political concerns that surround the death penalty as opposed to what was right.”

(C. Kahn, “Former US Attorney relieved with Ariz. Murder case,” Associated Press, September 23, 2008). See Federal Death Penalty and Arbitrariness.