Pollard Denied Access To Papers

The Washington Times - Guy Taylor - March 21, 2006

The Supreme Court yesterday rejected an appeal by a former Navy intelligence officer convicted of spying for Israel and sentenced to life in prison in 1987.

Jonathan Pollard, 57, had asked the justices to grant him access to classified documents in his sentencing file, which published reports said include a lengthy declaration by former Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger.

Pollard sought the documents in hopes that they may bolster his pursuit of clemency from President Bush. But the high court moved without comment to let stand a U.S. appeals court ruling that federal courts lack the jurisdiction to review claims of access to such materials in clemency petitions.

The rejection was one of several developments at the high court yesterday. The justices also:

  • Rejected an appeal by the state of New Jersey seeking to reinstate a death sentence for Robert O. Marshall, a former insurance salesman convicted of hiring a hit man to kill his wife in 1984. New Jersey sought reversal of a federal appeals court ruling that dropped the sentence on grounds Marshall's attorneys acted inadequately at the sentencing phase of his trial.

  • Rejected an appeal by a photographer who claimed her free-speech rights were violated by a 1996 federal decency law that criminalizes the sending of obscenity to children via the Internet. Backed in the case by the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, photographer Barbara Nitke contended that her work was not obscene, but art, and worthy of being posted on a Web site.

  • Heard oral arguments on whether remarks by victims or others to 911 operators, or police at crime scenes, shall be barred from evidence because they weren't made under oath or subjected to cross-examination by a defendant. The issue centers on whether prosecutors may win convictions against people using the 911 statements of victims unwilling to testify, as often occurs in domestic violence cases. A ruling is expected this summer.

The Pollard case, meanwhile, marks the latest in a decades-long effort by the convicted spy and others to win his release from prison. Shortly after his arrest outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington in 1985, Pollard pleaded guilty to having sold tens of thousands of pages of military secrets to Israel while working at the Pentagon.

Before his sentencing, Pollard's attorneys were allowed access to classified documents given to the judge by the government, including a 46-page memorandum by Mr. Weinberger describing Pollard's espionage activities.

But two other attorneys whom Pollard hired in 2000 have not seen the materials, and a U.S. appeals court has denied them access. Pollard petitioned the Supreme Court in hopes the justices may intervene. The high court's refusal to review the matter lets stand a lower-court ruling that said that "granting Pollard or his counsel access to these materials would almost surely open a floodgate of similar requests."

  • See Also:
  • The U.S. Court Case Page