The Trial Lawyers Speak

Jerry Kilgore's death penalty ad is aimed at Tim Kaine, whose personal opposition to capital punishment is at odds with the majority of Virginians.

But the ads seem to have rankled another group: trial lawyers.

About 125 of them signed a letter to Kilgore sent today, blasting him for suggesting that lawyers shouldn't represent death row clients. It refers to an ad in which Stanley Rosenbluth, the father of a murder victim, speaks against Kaine.

"Your Rosenbluth ad suggests that attorneys who handle death penalty cases are an enemy of the victim's family," the letter states. "To quote the ad, the defense attorney in the Rosenbluth case 'stood with the murderer,' and 'volunteered' to do so."

The letter goes on to say that having good lawyers for death row clients is "essential to the administration of justice" and they call on Kilgore to take the ads down.

"We call upon you sir, as a former Attorney General of the Commonwealth, and as a colleague committed to the rule of law, to withdraw that ad."

Kilgore's response: not on your life.

"It comes as no surprise that someone who has given Tim Kaine more than $10,000 in his last two elections doesn't like an ad that highlights Tim Kaine's record," said Kilgore spokesman Tim Murtaugh.

Bob Hall, the main signatory to the letter, gave $10,711 to Kaine over the years, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. Hall calls him "a friend." Hall has also made two $1,000 contributions to Republicans, but a total of $38,761 to Democrats.

By Michael Shear |  October 18, 2005; 1:22 PM ET  | Category:  Jerry Kilgore
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The ad does show a complete lack of respect for the right of every American to be represented by an attorney. I guess Kilgore would prefer accused criminals to represent themselves. Kilgore clearly is playing to the lowest common demoniator and appealing to the worst in people with this ad. He must be getting consulting from the ad agency that made the Willie Horton Ad.

Posted by: Lo | October 18, 2005 04:29 PM

I sure hope Kilgore shows more respect for the second amendment than he does for the sixth.

Posted by: Sportsman | October 18, 2005 04:42 PM

Did you know that Hitler, the worst mass murderer of our times, supports the death penalty, just like Jerry Kilgore? Vote Potts, for incoherency!

Posted by: plunge | October 19, 2005 10:50 AM

I am so glad George Allen has come to rescue Jerry Kilgore and that both appear ready to "brag" on Kilgore's tenure as Allen's Secretary of Public Safety.

Incarceration should not be confused with education. Building prisons is not nearly as noble as building schools.

Perhaps, Mr. Allen or Mr. Kilgore might be able to answer a few questions concerning the administration of the juvenile justice system in Virginia and about WHY the U.S. Justice Department was called in to investigate.

Those with good memories, will recall that overcrowding and abuse in the state's juvenile detention centers could qualify Virginia for a "Shame of the Nation" award.

Under Kilgore's tenure as Director of Public Safety, there were not just simply ALLEGATIONS of child abuse, but CONFIRMED CASES of children being beaten into unconsciousness by guards.

This all came to light in May of 1996, when the Justice Department, tipped off to the routine abuse of children, launched an investigation.

Allen, having been elected on a "tough on crime" ticket, established harsh new standards for juvenile offenders, putting them in prison for lesser offenses and keeping them in longer.

Kilgore, ever eager to please, was more than ready to lock these kids up and throw away the keys. Never mind that it costs more to incarcerate a kid than it does to educate one.

Overcrowding inevitably got worse, abuse became more common, and the whole system quickly ceased to rehabilitate children, but instead turned them into hardened criminals.

This was a stark contrast to just a decade previously, when Virginia's juvenile-justice system was considered the model for the nation and the envy of leaders of states across the country. Allen and Kilgore, in an effort to prove themselves "tough guys," managed to destroy everything good about the system, making it worse than useless.

Despite the obviousness of the abuse -- the reaction from Kilgore and his boss was shocking.

Rather than admit fault, express even an iota of shame at the federal government's need to get involved, they became very defensive.

Get this -- Kilgore CLAIMED the whole probe was purely political, and attempted to BLAME it on President Clinton, saying that Clinton was making up stuff (hmmmmm, sound familiar?) to detract from Allen's juvenile justice overhaul.

As the Virginian-Pilot wrote in an editorial at the time (May 23, 1996):

"Much as Virginia would like to handle its own problems, officials should listen carefully to what the Justice Department has to say. This probe should not disintegrate into a federal/state standoff, but should be taken as a chance to assess what's wrong and move forward.

Lives may be at stake, literally - those of errant juveniles, of the men and women who guard them and of a public that sooner or later will have most of these young people back in its its midst."

Is blaming someone else for a problem considered... "LEADERSHIP"? Is claiming ignorance of a problem..."LEADERSHIP"? Is the ability to tell BIGGER AND BIGGER lies to protect your boss... "LEADERSHIP"?

How many of the juvenile offenders warehoused and subjected to abuse in the Allen/Kilgore administration are now adult offenders contributing to increased crime across the state? Are these chickens coming home to roost?

Just wondering when Mr. Kilgore will stop whining and blaming other people for his troubles and stand up as a man, "a man in full," and take some responsibility?

Posted by: SoccerMom | October 20, 2005 09:21 AM

Yes, I was the main signatory to the letter to Jerry Kilgore asking him to take down his so-called Rosenbluth TV ad. Taking death penalty cases is frequently a thankless, unpopular, substantially undercompensated and absolutely essential bit of lawyering. Over 100 people, formerly facing execution, have been exonerated and released to their families thanks to the efforts of volunteer attorneys such as Tim Kaine.

Of couse I've contributed to the Kaine campaign and not Kilgore's. I respect the commitment to principle, sacrifice and guts of Tim Kaine, not the pandering to fear and anger of Jerry Kilgore.

Posted by: Robert T. "Bob" Hall | October 24, 2005 08:53 AM

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