Prosecuting George W. Bush for Murder
ELECTION EVE: CROSS-FIRE CONTINUES BETWEEN DENNETT AND SORRELL ON LAW GOVERNING BUSH PROSECUTION – BUGLIOSI WEIGHS IN WITH REBUTTAL
After inviting [Vermont] Attorney General William Sorrell to a debate on whether or not prosecuting George Bush was possible under Vermont law, Attorney General candidate Charlotte Dennett received a letter from Sorrell telling her that Vermont state law does not govern prosecuting “war crimes,” that she was engaging in “political grandstanding,” and that he found it “curious” that she sought to include renowned prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi in the proposed debate. Sorrell declined Dennett’s invitation.
Today, Dennett responded to Sorrell’s charges, faxing him a letter that read in part:
“You persist in stating that I am looking to prosecute Bush for “war crimes.” I am not. I intend to prosecute Mr. Bush for murder, which is a different crimes subject to different statutes and prosecutable in Vermont. I know the law and explained in a response to you posted on my website [charlottedennettforattorneygeneral.com] on October 24th how I will apply this to the case.”
“You say that you find it ‘curious’ that I would seek to include Mr. Bugliosi in my debate with you…As attorney general, on serious matters of public safety, health and necessity, I would not hesitate to reach out to the most qualified experts I could find to help me...You would have been welcome, had you accepted my challenge to debate, to bring someone of equal caliber to square off against Mr. Bugliosi.”
In his letter, Sorrell also reminded Dennett of the attorney general’s oath of office “to do equal right and justice to all men and women to the best of (your) judgment and ability according to the law.” Dennett responded that on the very day she received his letter, she had learned that Sorrell’s office had helped the health department avoid public hearings after the health department had changed the formula for measuring the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant’s radiation emissions. Under the new formula, higher radiation emissions that would have been previously illegally high, fell under legal limits. “Is it really your ‘best judgment’,” wrote Dennett, “that avoiding public scrutiny on this….is better for Vermont’s citizens?”
Along with her response to Sorrell, Dennett included an addendum on prosecution law written by Vincent Bugliosi that corrected the attorney general’s inaccurate comments.
Bugliosi’s addendum is below.
Vincent Bugliosi’s Response to William Sorrell’s October 28, 2008 letter to Charlotte Dennett Regarding Prosecuting George W. Bush for Murder
Sorrell says that George Bush is not guilty of the murder of Vermont soldiers in Iraq because it could not be seriously contended that he “intentionally killed or intentionally caused the killing of individual Vermont soldiers. Unfortunately for Mr. Bush (and derivatively, Mr. Sorrell), the law of murder is not that simplistic. Moreover, we shall see that even under Sorrell’s own words, Bush is guilty of murder.
Murder is an unlawful killing with malice aforethought. There are two types of malice aforethought: express and implied. Express is when there is an intent to kill, which Sorrell alleges is lacking here on Bush’s part. But a jury could well find an intent to kill here, though not in the popular use of the term. By ordering American soldiers into war in Iraq, Bush absolutely knew that this would inevitably result in American casualties. For Bush to defend himself by contending that he was contemplating a war without casualties would only make him look foolish. Such an argument would be rejected out of hand by a jury. What difference does it make if someone intends to kill B or doesn’t intend to kill B, but intends to commit an act that he knows will kill B? It’s a distinction without substance. Further, it is boilerplate law that “since every sane man is presumed to intend the natural and probable consequences of his act, it follows that if one willfully does an act, the natural tendency of which is to take another’s life, the irresistible conclusion is that destruction of such other person’s life was intended.” So, in this sense, there was an intent to kill.
But even if we reject this fundamental legal principle, Sorrell alleges that Bush did not intentionally kill or intentionally cause (“cause” being the key word) the killing of individual Vermont soldiers. By his use of the disjunctive “or,” even Sorrell seems to stipulate that if it could be shown that Bush intentionally caused the killing of Vermont soldiers, Bush would be guilty of murder. Accepting Sorrell at his word, when Bush invaded Iraq, again, he absolutely knew he would be causing Iraqis, either in self-defense or to repel the invader, to fight back, and that in doing so, American soldiers would be killed. There is no way for Bill Sorrell to get around this reality.
It has to be noted that even if a jury were to conclude that there was no intent to kill (no express malice) on Bush’s part, surely, at an absolute minimum, they would find implied malice, which does not require any intent to kill, only an intent to do an inherently dangerous act with wanton and reckless disregard for the consequences and an indifference to human life. This state of mind is certainly satisfied by Bush taking this nation into a deadly war, and is too obvious to elaborate on.
So Sorrell, the chief legal and law enforcement officer of the state of Vermont, is unequivocally wrong on the law. He is also wrong on the matter of jurisdiction. He has repeatedly said that the state of Vermont has no jurisdiction to prosecute Bush for murder since the killings of Vermont soldiers took place in Iraq, not Vermont. Although the basic rule is that a state only has jurisdiction to prosecute cases in which the crime was committed within the territorial jurisdiction of the state, there is a very well-recognized exception to that rule called the “effects doctrine.” This doctrine provides that if a crime is committed outside a state but has a harmful, adverse effect within the state, that state has jurisdiction to prosecute the crime. Certainly the death of Vermont’s soldiers has had a harmful effect on the state of Vermont. Indeed, the effects doctrine has been applied to crimes whose effects on a state were much, much less significant than the deaths of citizens.
There are many cases that have invoked the effects doctrine under both state and federal law, and several are cited on pages 305 to 307, and 309 to 310 of my book, THE PROSECUTION OF GEORGE W. BUSH FOR MURDER. It is alarming that the chief legal officer of Vermont, William Sorrell, is unaware of the law on this extremely critical matter.
Sorrell really betrays his lack of knowledge and experience in the criminal law when he writes, “experienced, competent prosecutors typically work closely with the families of victims during the period leading up to and through a criminal prosecution.” This is nonsense. Apart from the fact that Charlotte Dennett is not the attorney general at this point, and hence, could not be preparing for a criminal prosecution, prosecutors very rarely “work closely” with the families of victims. Work closely doing what? This would only happen if the survivors were percipient witnesses to matters offered into evidence at the trial by the prosecution. But nine times out of ten they are not, so other than the prosecutor having one or two solicitous contacts with the survivors at the beginning and calling them on occasion (if they don’t attend the trial) to keep them abreast of things, there may very well be no further contact. The only thing a survivor does at a murder trial is identify a photo of the deceased for the jury. That takes less than a minute, and obviously there is no cross-examination.
When Mr. Sorrell further suggests that the survivors should be asked if they believed “their loved ones were intentionally murdered by George Bush,” he betrays an even deeper and disturbing lack of experience in the criminal law. Not only is the survivor’s state of mind on this issue irrelevant, so is that of the victim, even if he or she could talk. Doesn’t Mr. Sorrell know that the legal victim in a criminal case is not the lay person who suffered the harm, but the people of the state? Further, doesn’t he know that the lay victim of a crime like rape, robbery, arson, et cetera, is only a witness for the prosecution? This is why a criminal complaint or indictment in a state reads “People of the State of [name of the state] vs. [the defendant]. It doesn’t read the victim versus the defendant. Is Sorrell confusing a civil with a criminal case? Does he not know that in many important criminal cases, the prosecution goes forward even when the lay victim does not want them to?
That Mr. Sorrell suggests (though he does not say it directly) that the state of mind of the survivors of the Vermont soldiers who died in Iraq is in any way relevant to the issue of whether George Bush should be prosecuted for the murder of their loved ones can only be characterized as unbelievable, particularly for the chief legal officer of the state of Vermont.
In all candor, on the issue of whether or not the state of Vermont should prosecute George Bush for the murder of its soldiers who died fighting Bush’s war in Iraq, Bill Sorrell seems to be woefully out of his depth.
- Vincent Bugliosi
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Vincent Bugliosi and Charlotte Dennett, "Team Prosecute Bush"
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[click here] for OpEd News, "My Break from George W. Bush"
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