July 31, 2009

Another Gableman ad recalled

A judge today dismissed the 29-year-old first-degree murder case against Ralph Armstrong, citing what he said were repeated violations by prosecutors of a court order concerning evidence in the case and a failure to tell Armstrong's lawyers about his brother's purported confession nearly 15 years ago.
A prior appeal of Ralph Armstrong's to the Wisconsin Supreme Court was the subject of advertising deemed defamatory and deployed by one of those so-called "family values" outfits last year in support of currently embattled judge Mike Gableman.

The teevee spot was concocted by the Coalition For America's Families and its then-"spokesman" R.J. Johnson. Johnson has been lately found laboring for the election campaign of Milwaukee County Executive and Republican gubernatorial hopeful Scott Walker.

A number of television stations refused to run the ad despite the outfit's subsequent removal of the defamatory language.

Its incendiary message even bothered Mike Gableman's enablers.

Marquette University law professor and court watcher Richard Esenberg observed disapprovingly that the ad contained a "shot of the victim's body followed, not immediately but soon, with a shot of [former Wisconsin Supreme Court] Justice Louis Butler laughing."

This is apparently a conservative family value: Portray your political opponents as deriving pleasure from rape and homicide.*

Ironically, as it turns out, the Ralph Armstrong ad was intended to bolster Gableman's repeated claims of the righteous role of State prosecutors as opposed to that of criminal defense attorneys.

Moreover, the "family values" crowd and R.J. Johnson used the Supreme Court's decision in State v. Armstrong, 2005 WI 119, as a cudgel against Justice Butler but then asserted that Butler mustn't be allowed to cite the case when discussing his own record on the court.

One couldn't invent a finer example of rank hypocrisy, which, as everybody knows, is a quality valued highly by America's Families.

* Evidently there exist voters clueless enough to believe such a thing, otherwise the suggestion wouldn't find its way into a political ad. The breathtakingly cynical political objective is to leave the composition of the State's highest appellate court up to that sort of mentality.

This approach is willingly accepted by many as a necessary artifact of democracy, yet fewer than 20% of Wisconsin's registered voters participated in the 2008 spring election that installed Gableman.

It's not clear how many of the other eight in every ten stayed away out of sheer revulsion at the process and the uses to which it's put.

Those that did have the likes of R.J. Johnson to thank.


Brett said...

Apart from the hysteria regarding the circumstances, that was an interesting case, and one that I don't see how it could have been decided otherwise, given prior supreme court precedent of State v. Hicks.

William Tyroler said...

Kudos to Jerry Buting, who has worked tirelessly and superbly for many years as Armstrong's attorney (pro bono for the most part, far as I know). Barry Scheck also was impressive on the appeal.

Brett might well be correct about the assumed application of Hicks, but in the event reversal of Armstrong's conviction was by a razor-thin 4-3 margin. Butler wrote the majority opinion. Had Armstrong's case come before the court this past term, his conviction would have been affirmed 4-3, with Gableman, perhaps, authoring the majority opinion. Timing is everything.

Anonymous said...

Again, the 2008 Supreme Court election is long over. DEAL WITH IT! As for Mr. Armstrong, you forgot to mention that at the time he was convicted of the murder in Madison he was on parole for a rape in New Mexico (supposedly a "life" sentence). Armstrong could very well be the next Steven Avery (Kudos to the Innocence Project on that one). Since you are so pleased with the outcome in this case, maybe you should invite Armstrong to live with you and your family. Hopefully Justice Gableman will cast the deciding vote to reinstate the charges.

illusory tenant said...

I don't know anyone who's "pleased with the outcome." Mr. Tyroler was expressing a professional courtesy at the efforts of defense counsel, as far as I can tell.

As for the election, its lessons had better not be forgotten.

William Tyroler said...

Anon 6:04, much like Gableman, doesn't appear to be a fan of the adversarial process.

Brett said...

Now the State isn't even going to appeal the dismissal of charges on grounds of prosecutorial misconduct. That's probably Justice Butler's fault too.