Fired U.S. Attorney overruled on death penalty

Paul K. Charlton, the former U.S. Attorney for Arizona, said Attorney General Alberto Gonzales forced him to seek the death penalty in a murder case involving a methamphetamine dealer.

No body or weapon was ever discovered in the case against Jose Rios Rico. He was charged with the 2003 murder of a drug supplier in suburban Phoenix.

Despite the lack of evidence, Gonzales ordered Charlton to seek the death penalty, Charlton told a Senate Judiciary subcommittee yesterday. A month after the incident, Charlton's name was put on a list of federal prosecutors to be fired.

It was the second time Charlton was overruled on a death penalty case. In 2001, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft ordered him to seek capital punishment against a Navajo man who was charged with murdering a woman and her granddaughter.

But in that case, Ashcroft's aides were willing to listen to Charlton's views -- the Navajo Nation opposed the use of the death penalty. Gonzales, on the other hand, refused to discuss the meth dealer issues, Charlton told the subcommittee.

Get the Story:
Fired Prosecutor Says Gonzales Pushed Death Penalty (The Washington Post 6/28)

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