15 August 2007

Lawlor Plays the Race Card

Democrat Michael Lawlor, D-East Haven, has decided to play racial politics to get people's minds off the crucial reforms needed in our criminal justice system. In today's Hartford Courant, Lawlor sought to slime the appointment of Judge John Downey, a nominee to the state Appellate Court, by pointing to comments the latter made in 2003 upon the passing of former U.S. Senator Strom Thumond of South Carolina.

It comes as hundreds prepare to meet tonight at a rally in Cheshire to call for a "Three Strikes" provision in sentencing that would have kept two accused murderers of the Petit family off the streets.

Lawlor and State Rep. David McClusky, D-West Hartford, another liberal apologist for the rights of criminals, telegraphed their concern about Downey's remarks, made from the bench four years ago. Downey would not dignify this cheap shot by Lawlor with a comment and when pressed, Lawlor and McClusky said it probably wouldn't prevent them for approving Downey's nomination.

But the point had already been made - imply that Downey wears a white sheet and prays at the temple of intolerance. Well, that doesn't fool anyone and it points to how scary Lawlor really is, someone who understands the public is figuring out who has been at the helm of making laws that have led to the release of accused killers Joshua Komisarjevky, 26, of Cheshire and Steven Hayes, 44.

By any measure, Judge Downey is an exemplary jurist and model citizen. So Lawlor figures he can muddy Downey up before he even has hearing before the Judiciary Committee. It's an old trick - associate someone with a racist and make him deny it.

Downey's remarks were a personal reflection upon the death of Thurmond, an avowed segregationist and Presidential candidate in 1948 as a third-party Dixicrat. Thurmond, who flew a glider behind enemy lines during D-Day and was awarded the Legion of Merit with Oak Leaf Cluster and the Bronze Star. Thurmond changed dramatically in the subsequent years and was one of the first Southern leaders to promote and hire African Americans to important positions in the government. Oh yeah, and Thurmond supported Supreme Court Judge Clarence Thomas, too.

Here are Downey's explosive remarks as reported in Courant via court transcript:

The Superior Court transcript of June 2003 quotes Downey as noting that Thurmond "participated in the D-day invasion, in Normandy, in the airborne," during World War II.

Downey went on to say: "Now, he went through quite a transformation. He was a man who seemed to be, by many, to be a bigot and a racist because of his position on race relations in the United States. But one thing that I observed about Sen. Thurmond was that he was able to see life and reality and to grow with life and reality.

"In fact, he became one of the most responsible and helpful people in terms of race relations in South Carolina, appointing federal judges who were black and doing much for the black community. He also changed his political affiliation from Democrat to Republican. He was an example, I think ... of people who can see that the truth in life, sometimes we only see it later in life, but he was a person who seemed to transform in that regard."

In a concluding anecdote before he started the day's regular court proceedings, Downey said the elderly Thurmond had married a "lovely" woman decades younger, and she sat in the audience next to his mother and father at his law school graduation in 1977.

"And I remember hearing the story about the senator ... you know, here he was a man in his 70s marrying a woman some 40 years his junior. And at one point, his friends took him aside and said, 'Senator, you know this age difference could be fatal.' And the senator allegedly said, 'Well, she dies, she dies.'

"Well, today a great American is remembered for his contributions to our society, and I'm especially grateful for the things he did for me, and I wanted to share that with you today," he said.

You can almost see Lawlor and his staff jumping up and down when they saw these comments. But they are nothing more than a reflection on one's catharsis and movement to justice.

What a sad comment that we are reduced to this when Lawlor and his legions should be calling for a top-to-bottom reform of a criminal justice system that has failed to protect the people he is sworn to protect.


Anonymous said...

“Judge Downey has asked me to withdraw his nomination to be a Judge of
the Appellate Court. I respect Judge Downey’s decision. I am sure it
was a difficult one for him and his family.

I will be submitting a new nomination to the Judiciary Committee in the
near future.”