Grasshopper Soup: Gambling with American justice
Is common sense too much to ask of our U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder? Should the nations top attorney play his cards right, or just wing it? It appears as if he is talking out of both sides of his mouth and putting justice in a pickle.
He decided to try 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and four co-conspirators, in federal court instead of military court. If he doesn’t know what a big gamble that is, he’s in the wrong game. Maybe he feels lucky. Let’s hope he is.
The Obama administration wants to restore integrity to politics. They want to prove to the Muslim world that America is a compassionate country, the Bush administration was a fluke and we have reclaimed the high moral ground. American justice means innocent until proven guilty. Equality is for everyone, not just Americans. That very ideal puts the biggest hole of all in White House rationale. Either they can’t see it or they don’t care.
Mr. Holder dug that hole himself during congressional hearings when he said that, if the defendants are acquitted, they will not be released on the streets of New York City. In other words, if they are found innocent he won’t let them go! I am sure that will clear up any doubts the Muslim world has about the compassion of American justice.
Of course, the 9/11 conspirators will be safer in custody than on the streets of New York. But there is the risk that, if they remain in custody after being acquitted, it will only prove to Muslims that America is above the law under Obama just like it was under Bush.
Holder already showed his hand when he said publicly he can guarantee a conviction. That kind of prosecutor zeal alone taints the trial and could result in a dismissal of all charges. But even if Holder’s crystal ball is right, his logic is clearly that of an amateur.
The fact that the 9/11 conspirators were held for years without a trial is another reason Holder may not get a conviction, in spite of his certainty.
If Holder wants to give them all the benefits of American law maybe he’ll also guarantee a trial by a jury of their peers. Twelve jihadists will be happy to reach a lawful verdict.
But there are other cards stacked against Holder. When captured, the defendants were not read their Miranda rights. In federal court, that is a big no-no. But not in military court. Also, hearsay is not allowed in federal court, but a judge can allow it in a military court.
Khalid was tortured with water boarding too. You can be sure the defense will use that against the prosecution. They could end the trial before it even begins. They will use the water boarding issue, rules of unlawful detention, Holder’s pre-trial statements and Miranda right violations to motion for a dismissal of all charges and, if the American legal system is as compassionate as the White House says it is, it is reasonable for them to assume a dismissal could be granted. Why take that chance?
Every gambler knows you look at all the cards before you bet. Knowing all the cards in his hand, why would Holder put himself, and American justice, in such a pickle?
Holder knows the defense team will take advantage of the federal system. They already have. They want to make a name for themselves. They will use pro-Muslim sentiment if they think it will help them win a not guilty verdict. That’s what lawyers do. Johnnie Cochran, and his jury, did something very similar for O.J. Simpson.
To be fair, plenty of people agree there is no way the 9/11 conspirators will go free, but nobody knows for sure. The odds for a conviction are much better in a military court. That’s just common sense.
I’m older than Holder. I don’t gamble and I hate pickles. He should listen to reason and use the military court. But he’s the wild ace getting paid the big bucks, not me.
Bob Sweigert is a Sierra Sun columnist, published poet, ski instructor and commercial driver. He’s lived at Lake Tahoe for 27 years.