Many of the most prominent newspaper columnists in the state have voiced their opinion that former governor Edwin Edwards has been punished enough. We share their opinions.
Every reasonable and compassionate person in the state believes Edwards has been punished enough. At age 81, a ten-year sentence is inhumane, unconsciousable and tantamount to a death sentence. Keeping him in prison serves no useful purpose; absolutely none.
He has been in prison for over six years. Current federal guidelines provide for a maximum sentence of five years, not ten years. His marriage failed, he is broke financially, he will be 82 years old on August 7, 2009, and his health is not that good, having had a heart operation and two subsequent stint operations. More importantly, his good name and reputation have been tarnished for posterity.
There are two myths that we need to address. First, is the widespread belief, fostered by the government, that Edwards made his money in politics.
This is absolutely false. At 21 years of age and fresh out of LSU law school, he opened a little office in Crowley. In a few short years he built the largest, best and most profitable legal practice in the area.
When he moved to Baton Rouge, he continued to practice law when he was not governor and his law practice there continued to flourish.
As a student of government and as a participant in government for 50 years, he was by far the most qualified lawyer in the state to represent those people in or out of state who needed to navigate the multiple and intricate details necessary to do business in the state.
Lobbyists make hundreds of millions of dollars a year and one could argue that Edwards, due to his experience in government, was the best lobbyist in the entire state as well as the best problem solver. This is why thousands flocked to him for help and sought his advice and counsel. Those who know him know he never extorted anyone in his life.
The second myth is that government in Louisiana is corrupt and that all elected officials are crooks. This too is patently false and largely fostered by the news media. If you draw a circle around New Orleans, you eliminate 98 percent of corruption in the state.
Anyone who has done business in any other state knows that politics is the same in every state. There is no more corruption in Louisiana than any other state. True, there are some elected officials in every state who are corrupt, but the great majorities are not.
Edwards, with his powerful intellect and great skills in law and in business, could have made 20 times more money in the practice of law or in business. He loved his state and he loved serving the people in it. That was his passion; that was his mission; not the money.
He was elected to the following offices: City Council, State Senate, U. S. House of Representatives and Governor. He served in these various capacities over a 50-year period.
He is the only man in the long history of the state to have been elected four times to the office of governor. Common sense dictates that he must have done something right. Voters in this state are not stupid.
During his long tenure as an elected official in various capacities, he has done more for more people than any elected official in history. His myriad contributions are far too lengthy to mention but they include every aspect of life in the state.
Ask any college president, any school board member, any police juror, any mayor of small towns or large cities, any sheriff, any police chief or anyone else in government who served during his tenure and try to find one who will say that he did not help them.
Ask any state senator or representative in the legislature who served with him while governor, even his political foes, if he ever lied to them or failed to tell them what he could do to help or what he could not do to help them.
Ask the great majority of business people, oil people, and union people, working people, poor people, underprivileged/handicapped people and minority people if he helped them. Especially ask Black people what he did for Black people when it was not fashionable to solicit their vote because most of them didn’t vote at that time.
And if he is such a bad person, why have seven federal judges visited him in prison? Do federal judges make it a practice to visit people in prison? Why has a former governor and thousands of other people, rich and poor and of every stripe, visited him in prison, or send him mail every day or send him 200/300 Christmas cards every Christmas?
The pardon powers given the President were not provided accidentally by the Founding Fathers who wrote the Constitution. On the contrary, they specifically gave the president the sole power to overturn the conviction of anyone wrongly convicted or one sentenced too harshly by the criminal justice system, a system of checks and balances, if you will, over the awesome power of prosecutors and judges.
A group of the top Republicans and Democrats in the state began a mission to ask President Bush to pardon former Governor Edwards or commute his sentence on humanitarian grounds.
Former Republican Governor David Treen, whose impeccable honesty and integrity is above reproach, has led the mission to free Edwards. Former Senators J. Bennett Johnston and John Breaux support the mission and as most Louisianans, they clearly believe he has been punished enough.
A scientific poll by a reputable pollster indicated that people in Louisiana agreed that Edwards should be released from prison by better than a two-to-one margin, or 70 to 30 percent.
Mr. President we strongly recommend that, in your wisdom and compassion, you heed the request of the top Republicans and Democrats in our state who have joined together on behalf of former Governor Edwin Edwards.
“The qualities of mercy are not strained.”
He doesn’t deserve to be in prison one day longer.
Editorials represent the opinions of this newspaper, and not of any one individual.