Several other factors revealed by this record require brief discussion.
Although the Special Master found that pressures from outside OSI did not influence the respondents' failure to disclose required information, the presence of such pressure cannot be gainsaid. In August of 1978 Congressman Eilberg, the Chairman of an important committee, wrote then Attorney General Bell a letter insisting that Demjanjuk be prosecuted hard because "we cannot afford the risk of losing" the case. n3
The trial attorney then in charge of the case, Mr. Parker, wrote in his 1980 memorandum that the denaturalization case could not be dismissed because of factors "largely political and obviously considerable." Other lawyers in OSI wrote memos discussing this case as a political "hot potato" that if lost "will raise political problems for us all including the Attorney General." (Mendelsohn, then the Director of the office, to Crosland, September 26, 1978, Pet. Exh. 113.) Mr. Ryan, Director of the office, wrote the Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division in 1980 that OSI had "secured the support in Congress, Jewish [*355] community organizations, public at large for OSI--press coverage has been substantially favorable and support from Jewish organizations is now secure," but he went on to say that "this support can't be taken for granted and must be reinforced at every opportunity." (Ryan Tr. at 88.)
Mr. Ryan also testified that "in 1986, which was the year before the [Israeli] trial [of Demjanjuk], I went to Israel for about 10 days on a lecture tour that was sponsored by the Antidefamation League. . . ." (Ryan Tr. at 90.) It is obvious from the record that the prevailing mindset at OSI was that the office must try to please and maintain very close relationships with various interest groups because their continued existence depended upon it.
The "win at any cost" attitude displayed by some of these record documents and statements contrasts sharply with the attitude and actions of the Israeli prosecutors, who were under domestic political pressures themselves. But for the actions of the Israeli prosecutors, the death sentence against Demjanjuk probably would have been carried out by now. He would have been executed on a charge for which he has now been acquitted.
The Israeli prosecutors did not learn of the exculpatory evidence from Russia until after the accused was found guilty and sentenced to death in the Israel trial court. They had prosecuted the case over many months and obtained the conviction and death sentence. The Israeli prosecutors then learned that there was Russian information suggesting that the charges against the accused may be false. Instead of withholding the information, the prosecutors travelled to Russia to investigate the matter thoroughly. They marshalled the exculpatory evidence, brought it back to Israel; and in the face of extremely strong popular feelings against the accused, publicly turned it over to the Supreme Court of Israel. Basically, the Israeli prosecutors confessed error in the face of intense political pressure to get a conviction. Relying on this newly discovered exculpatory evidence developed by the prosecutors, the Supreme Court of Israel reversed the conviction which those same prosecutors had obtained five years earlier.
n3 The letter reads, in its entirety, as follows:
August 25, 1978
Honorable Griffin B. Bell Attorney General Department of Justice Washington, D.C.
Dear Mr. Attorney General:
Reports have reached me that deficiencies have become apparent in the preparation of the case of U.S. v. Demjanjuk, a denaturalization proceeding against an alleged Nazi war criminal now living in Cleveland, Ohio.
I wish to express my strong concern over the possible inadequate prosecution of this case. A repeat of the recent Fedorenko adverse decision to the government's case in Florida would nullify and gravely jeopardize the long and persistent efforts of this Subcommittee in ridding this country of these undesirable elements. Lack of preparation and a deep realization of the importance of these proceedings may have cost the government its decision in this case. We certainly would regret seeing this happen again.
The creation of a Special Litigation Unit within INS [predecessor of OSI] was established to bring expertise and organization to this project.
This Unit should be fully entrusted with these cases.
I would strongly urge you to place the direction of the proceedings of the DEMJANJUK case in the hands of the Special Litigation Unit. We cannot afford the risk of losing another decision.
With best wishes.
Pet. Supp. App. (1992), at 182.
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The Nizkor Project
HTML: Ken McVay
Director: Ken McVay OBC
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