Margaret Chiara’s clashes with the Bush administration over her opposition to the death penalty may have cost her her job as U.S. attorney for western Michigan, say lawyers quoted by the Detroit News. Chiara, 63, who worked her last day Friday, has said she does not know why she was forced out. Justice Department documents suggest there were “management issues” in her office, which came as news to Chief U.S. District Judge Robert Holmes Bell. “We were all very satisfied with the performance of her office,” he said.
The documents provide insights but no clear answers as to why Chiara was axed along with seven other U.S. attorneys in what has led to a scandal that could topple Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Chiara did not recommend the death penalty in a 2004 murder case but was overruled by the Justice Department. In the case, in which a jury did not vote for death, “I think she attempted to go to Washington to argue against it,” said a defense attorney involved. Justice Department talking points said that “if pushed,” officials should say that under Chiara, “the office has become fractured, morale has fallen, and (Chiara) has lost the confidence of several members of the leadership team and some career prosecutors.”