Jonathan Pollard

Jewish Press Editorial - June 16, 2004

This past week, yet another federal court kept alive Jonathan Pollard`s effort to get his day in court and contest his life sentence for espionage. It's time for the U.S. government to concede the injustice hat surrounds this case and permit a plenary court review of the matter.

Pollard's legal odyssey is well known. In 1987 he agreed to a plea bargain over charges that he spied for Israel and was to receive a jail sentence of a specific number of years; had it been imposed, Pollard would today probably be a free man. However, then-Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger wrote a secret memorandum to the judge alleging that Pollard`s crimes had resulted in a number of extraordinarily adverse consequences to the U.S. Whereupon, in apparent violation of the guilty plea agreement, Pollard received a life sentence.

Pollard's opportunity to appeal the sentence was compromised when his lawyer missed the filing date for the appeal. As a consequence, not only has the sentence never been appealed substantively, but Pollard has never had the opportunity to even see what Weinberger wrote.

For more than a decade Pollard has sought, through various court proceedings, to overcome the late appeal filing and to gain access to the Weinberger memo. A series of court rulings have stymied those efforts, though there has been almost universal judicial concern for the way he had initially been treated.

Now a federal appeals court will review a district court judge's recent refusal, after extended deliberation, to grant him special permission to appeal. That judge, who ultimately concluded that he was bound to deny the request because of legal precedent, had surprised the legal community by not dismissing the request outright. Indeed, such requests for special permission are usually so treated.

Clearly, even hardened judges who see this matter close up are viscerally moved by Pollard's plight.

President Bush can set this all straight by instructing the Justice Department not to oppose Pollard's bid for a court hearing and let the chips finally fall where they may.