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Disgruntled Juror Gets 15 Minutes of Fame - Joins O'Reilly Crusade Against Atlanta D.A. Paul Howard

Reported by Marie Therese - April 1, 2005

Last Wednesday (3/30/05), amidst all the coverage of the Schiavo case, Bill O'Reilly continued his crusade against Paul Howard, Georgia's first African-American District Attorney and pursued his concurrent vendetta against the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, possibly because that paper stopped running his syndicated column.

News Hounds has reported on O'Reilly's consistent and calculated campaign because it involves the Southeastern Legal Foundation, a powerful extreme right-wing group whose name consistently shows up in a lot of interesting places (the Paula Jones case, the Clinton disbarment, CBS Memogate, Gannon/Guckert, etc.). A list of links to our old stories on this topic is included at the end of this post.

Shannon Goessling, Executive Director of the Southeastern Legal Foundation, threw her hat in the ring last November in a bid to become Attorney General of Georgia. She lost that election and then resurfaced last month on The O'Reilly Factor to fan the flames of a recall election in Atlanta, targeting D. A. Paul Howard, possibly with the ulterior motive of running for that job herself. (In that same election Howard ran unopposed.)

Because Howard is popular in Atlanta, which is 70% black, it became necessary for Ms. Goessling and the Georgia Republican Party to manufacture a reason for a recall election.

Enter Bill O'Reilly and the Carisa Ashe case. Wrapping himself in the cloak of care and concern for African-American babies, he spent show after show ranting against Paul Howard because his office reached a plea agreement with Carisa Ashe, a troubled woman who was being prosecuted for the death of her five-week-old baby, Destiny. By the terms of the plea, Ms. Ashe agreed to plead guilty, submit to a tubal ligation and go on probation for five years.

A bevy of right-wing ideological clones - O'Reilly, Judge Andrew Napolitano, Goessling, Michael King (Project 21) et al - marched in lock-step, spouting the same set of talking points: Paul Howard is incompetent, Carisa Ashe got off with a slap on the wrist, nobody cares about this poor little black baby (translation: African-Americans can't take care of their own), the Atlanta Journal-Constitution rides shotgun for Paul Howard and, lastly, the judge in the case should never have approved such a light sentence. O'Reilly was poised to make this unsuspecting jurist yet another of his "activist judge" victims.

However, his campaign ground to a halt when that judge - Rowland Barnes - became one of Brian Nichols' victims during his one-day shooting spree in Atlanta. Suddenly O'Reilly was left without a judicial whipping boy because he could not impugn a man who'd just been murdered. He did try to blame Paul Howard for the failures of the sheriff's department, but abandoned that when it became obvious that courthouse security was the sole bailiwick of the Atlanta Sheriff's Office and it appeared that one of the prosecutors could also been targeted by Nichols.

It looked as though Atlanta's District Attorney was off the O'Reilly radar screen until this past Wednesday. Guest Jack Liles was the foreman of the first jury that tried Brian Nichols for rape. Because this jury could not reach a verdict, Nichols was being retried. It was during this new trial that he broke free and murdered four people before turning himself in with the help of Ashley Smith. On March 20th Cynthia Tucker, managing editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constition's editorial page, wrote a column entitled "Wish rape had nailed Nichols" in which she lamented the lack of a decision in the first case, citing statements by juror Joe Wood who said: ""I was pulling one way and the foreman was pulling another."

Jack Liles then wrote a rebuttal letter to the AJC in which he laid the blame on Paul Howard's office:

(A little internet research on Jack Liles does not net much except that he likes to play golf, having partnered in two tournaments sponsored by the Georgia National Golf Club. In April 2004, he partnered with Georgia residents Mark Brewster, Greg Winsper and Ben Knaak and then later that year in August his partners included Wiliam Boyd of Dallas and James Swanson of Jackson.)

In this most recent interview O'Reilly distorts the truth in one of his statements, i.e., when he said "Carisa Ashe got off and walked out the door after six years." Ms. Ashe is on probation for five years and had a tubal ligation. Only a man could make a statement claiming that an invasive surgical procedure cutting a woman's fallopian tubes means she got off scott free. Additionally, be aware that he states that the AJC is shilling for Paul Howard. Yet Ms. Tucker clearly writes in her column: "Still, the 'what if' game is irresistible. What if prosecutors had presented a case that convinced 12 jurors? A guilty verdict in February would have prevented so much blood and death and grief."

My transcript of the interview follows.

O'REILLY: We've been investigating the chaos in Atlanta that may have led to this thug Brian Nichols murdering four people. You may remember Nichols was charged with rape and his first trial resulted in a hung jury. That's why he was back in court the day he grabbed the gun from a deputy sheriff and began his murder spree. Joining us now from Atlanta is the foreman in that hung jury trial, Jack Liles. Liles, right?

LILES: That's right.

O'REILLY: Did I say your name correctly?

LILES nods his head.

O'REILLY (choosing words carefully): You believe that the D. A., Paul Howard, down there did not handle the prosecution of Brian Nichols correctly. How - how did he botch it?

LILES: I - um - well, remember, too, I don't know that Paul Howard probably even knew who Brian Nichols was prior to March 21st. He may have. Two younger Assistant District Attorneys actually handled the case. Actually, only a single one was in the courtroom for probably a half of the time. We essentially went to the jury room after hearing this case with a "he said-she said" story. Not a lot of solid physical evidence to support the alleged victim. Not a lot of solid evidence to dispel Brian Nichols' story, so it made for a very difficult deliberation in one sense. In the other sense it was kind of a no-brainer that at least a few people were gonna say "Hey, no way I'm lettin' this guy go." And then a few of - the rest of us kinda sayin' "Hey, no way they proved beyond a reasonable doubt he committed these elleged crimes."

[COMMENT: In Ms. Tucker's column she notes the following about the prosecution of rape cases: "Statistically, the hung jury is no surprise. According to a former Atlanta-area prosecutor, acquaintance rape 'is the most difficult case in the world' to prosecute. J. Tom Morgan, who was DeKalb County (Ga.) district attorney for 12 years, said about 90 percent of the rape cases that came to his office involved an 'acquaintance relationship.' Nationally, an estimated 70 percent of rape victims report they knew the assailant.

'But the typical juror believes a rape occurs because a stranger comes through the second-story window,' Morgan said.

Of all violent crimes, rape tends to be most misunderstood. As experts will attest, it's not about sex. It's not about beauty or sex appeal. Two-year-olds have been victims of rape. So have 82-year-olds. 'It's about control,' Morgan said.]

O'REILLY: Alright. So most of the jury people wanted to acquit him, correct?

LILES: Well, I wouldn't say so much we wanted to acquit him, Bill, as we certainly felt we had not been proven to beyond a reasonable doubt, so ...

[COMMENT: Once again, from Cynthia Tucker's column:

"After 15 hours of deliberations, the Nichols jury was hopelessly deadlocked. While nine had voted 'guilty' right after deliberations began, according to one juror, the guilty votes had dwindled to four all those hours later.

'I thought, 'He's not going to walk as long as I'm alive,' said Wood, 67. He refused to reconsider his 'guilty' vote.

So did Stephen O'Leary, 28. He didn't buy Nichols' claim of consensual sex. He believed the evidence -- including duct tape and the two guns Nichols allegedly used to threaten his victim -- corroborated the woman's testimony.

'I think many of the jurors who voted not guilty, I think they were glad it was a hung jury,' which gave the prosecutors a chance to try Nichols again.]

O'REILLY: Right. What was the - do you remember the vote count?

LILES: It was - it's been pubicized that it was 8 to 4. There was really one juror who had swayed over the weekend to vote for acquittal and it was 9 to 3, 8 to 4.

O'REILLY: OK. So you basically as the foreman didn't think Howard's guys did a good job in prosecuting this case?

LILES: No. We thought they did a terrible job, to be honest.

O'REILLY: Alright. A terrible job.

LILES: Terrible.

O'REILLY: Because we've been on Howard's case for doin' a terrible job in the Carisa Ashe - Destiny - and Baby Destiny was killed and this Carisa Ashe got off and walked out the door after six years, so we believe that this Paul Howard is incompetent and that his, his whole crew down there is a disorganized bunch. Would you disagree with that?

LILES: No, I wouldn't disagree with that. As I mentioned earlier, they - when the case was over - you know when you're a hung juty in Fulton County, you actually have the opportunity to meet with the attorneys afterwards or they have an opportunity to meet with the jury to find out what our thoughts were. In meeting with the two young assistant District Attorneys afterwards, we were kind of questioning them about, well, why didn't you, when you had the opportunity to cross-examine Nichols - he actually took the stand in his own defense - when they had the opportunity to cross-examine him, the cross-examination was terrible. They really did nothing more than just get Nichols to deny what the alleged victim claimed had happened. So, we were amazed when they rested their case with no more - no [sic] much more than just a few denials of the assertions of the alleged victim.

O'REILLY: OK.

LILES: When we asked them about it, they said "Oh, we were surprised. We weren't expecting him to take the stand so we really didn't know what to ask him."

O'REILLY: Wow!

LILES: We found that unbelievable.

O'REILLY: Yeah. I - there are huge problems in that D.A.'s office. There's no question. Now, the last question. We've been critical of the newspaper - the Atlantic Journal-Constitution - down there, for running interference, for being in the tank for this Paul Howard, D. A. Alright. Now, you had your problems with that newspaper as well.

LILES: Yeah. I sorta - I got the impression and naturally I'm probably gonna be a little defensive because I was on this jury, but I got the impression that they were essentially implying in the articles and the editorials they'd written over the past few weeks that, hey, there's no doubt about it. Brian Nichols was proven guilty in this trial so what was the jury thinking. In no way, shape or form was Brian Nichols proven guilty and, you know, so I guess we're a little defensive about being considered the scapegoats here when in my opinion Paul Howard's office is ...

O'REILLY (cuts him off): Well, it's a pattern, the pattern of the Atlanta Constitution is to prop up Paul Howard and they did it again by blaming you, not by blaming them.

LILES: I would agree with that.

O'REILLY: Alright. Mr. Liles, thank you very much for coming on the program and I'm happy to hear we're not being unfair here. Or, you know - Howard's invited but there's a lot of trouble in Atlanta.

LILES: Yeah, but it keeps pilin' up, doesn't it?

O'REILLY: It does. And when you got four people dead because of - this guy was not prosecuted the way he should have been. Ya' got serious problems down there. Thanks again, Mr. Liles. [End of transcript.]

COMMENT

Links to our other posts on this topic:

February 16, 2005
O'Reilly Targets First African-American D.A. in Georgia ...

February 22, 2005
Is Bill O'Reilly Meddling in Georgia Politics?"

March 6, 2005
Need to Engineer a State Recall Election? Call FOX News

March 15, 2005
What's Behind O'Reilly's Crusade Against Paul Howard?"

March 15, 2005
Oh, Atlanta! Bill O'Reilly Bashes the Capitol of the South

March 17, 2005
Why Is FOX News Working to Recall Atlanta's D. A.?

In a curious sidebar, since our reporting started, Southeastern Legal Foundation's website has been altered. Many of their formerly accessible links are no longer active, such as, About SLF, SLF History, Media info, Media Appearances, Resources, Year-End Estate Giving, Staff and Contact. The "donation" link, however, still works!

We wonder why?

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