The twists and turns of the Siegelman case

THE TWISTS AND TURNS OF THE SIEGELMAN CASE…. What do you know, the Bush administration’s handling of the Don Siegelman case can get even more controversial.

[N]ew documents highlight alleged misconduct by the Bush-appointed U.S. attorney and other prosecutors in the [Siegelman] case, including what appears to be extensive and unusual contact between the prosecution and the jury.

The documents, obtained by TIME, include internal prosecution e-mails given to the Justice Department and Congress by a whistle-blower during the last 18 months. John Conyers, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which investigated the Siegelman case as part of a broader inquiry into alleged political interference in the hiring and firing of U.S. attorneys by the Bush Justice Department, last week sent an eight-page letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey citing the new material.

Conyers says the evidence raises “serious questions” about the U.S. Attorney in the Siegelman case, who, documents show, continued to involve herself in the politically charged prosecution long after she had publicly withdrawn to avoid an alleged conflict of interest relating to her husband, a top GOP operative and close associate of Bush adviser Karl Rove. Conyers’ letter also cites evidence of numerous contacts between jurors and members of the Siegelman prosecution team that were never disclosed to the trial judge or defense counsel.

The Time report is worth reading, but pay particular attention to emails written by U.S. Attorney Leura Canary, who claimed to recuse herself from the case — her husband is a Republican activist with close ties to Karl Rove — but nevertheless continued to advise prosecutors.

A federal court will hear the former Alabama governor’s appeal in Atlanta next month. I’ll keep you posted on developments.

Update: Christy Hardin Smith also notes prosecutors’ ex parte communications with jurors in the case, “which were never disclosed to either the judge or opposing counsel.”