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Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s NYC Public Trial

posted by Scot McKnight

911.jpg I wonder who has given thought to the decision to try Kalid Sheikh Mohammed in NYC? Some are predicting disaster and little more than the hypocrisy of a show trial, while others think the trial will show Americans can be just toward terrorists, while yet others think doing such a thing in NYC is a bad idea. What do you think? Here’s a clip from an editorial.

The Khalid Sheikh Mohammed trial will be a show trial – make no mistake about it. No matter what proponents of this move may say, this trial isn’t about upholding American “values” or about proving the moral supremacy of our judicial system.

This is about giving a brutal terrorist an international stage to communicate with and energize al-Qaeda sects all over the world. It’s about focusing the attention of suicidal killers on a city that can ill afford to go through another 9-11.

We all know that no matter what a judge or jury decides, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed cannot be allowed to walk free. Indeed, Attorney General Holder has refused to even entertain questions considering the possibility of any outcome other than guilty – going as far as to guarantee the American people a conviction.

I ask, why bother to have a trial if the outcome is supposedly guaranteed? What will the Justice Department do if he is acquitted on a technicality that has already been fully vetted by the U.S. Supreme Court like failure to read him his Miranda rights, for example?

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Dave Terpstra

posted December 9, 2009 at 3:25 pm

I agree he will never be released, even if found innocent (there are too many other crimes for him to stand trial for). But in a democracy, we still give people a trial, even if they have confessed. It is what we do for fellow human beings, no matter what sort of monsters they have turned in to.
This trial will be a test of our resolve as a country to stand up to radical Islamic extremists. We have proven we can do it on the battlefield. Can we do it in our courtrooms as well?
It may be the deciding factor of whether or not the barbarians once again destroy Rome.

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Travis Greene

posted December 9, 2009 at 3:34 pm

Others are more informed than I am, I’m sure (David Opderbeck comes to mind), but I don’t believe people are acquitted on “technicalities”. To be acquitted is declared to be not guilty, after which the government can never charge you again (double jeopardy). A judge could dismiss charges based on lack of evidence if a confession, say, was acquired illegitimately (like if the suspect wasn’t Mirandized), but the state could always come back with more evidence.
Anyway, the political reality is nothing like that will happen with this defendant in this jurisdiction.

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posted December 9, 2009 at 3:43 pm

Travis — one man’s technicality is another man’s Constitutional right.
The outcome is by no means guaranteed. In fact, since I work directly across the river from Manhattan, I’m more concerned about the location for security reasons.

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Travis Greene

posted December 9, 2009 at 3:54 pm

The quotes I used around technicalities were to indicate sarcasm. The “let him off on a technicality” meme is right up there with “judicial activism” for misleading phrases.
Are you concerned because you think the venue might be under threat from terrorists, or because you think they might actually let him walk out of the courtroom?

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posted December 9, 2009 at 4:31 pm

Concerned about the venue being a threat to terrorists. Also, I remember too vividly on 9/11 rushing out to the parking lot seeing the smoke billowing up from across the river. I’m sure it’s even worse for people who were in Manhattan that day. The trial should be somewhere else.

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posted December 9, 2009 at 5:44 pm

It will be interesting to see the feds squirm if (or, rather, more likely when) the subject of torture comes up. I’m 100% sure that this guy is guilty. But an untainted verdict is going to be difficult due to the way that he was treated during his incarceration.

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posted December 9, 2009 at 5:59 pm

Both our President and Attorney General–the heads of our justice system–have assured us of this man’s guilt and eventual conviction.
Unless OJ’s judge and jury have moved to NYC, they should be able to deliver on that promise.
Is it OK to value the conviction of a mass murderer more than a “fair” trial for him? (It doesn’t appear we can have both here–not by modern standards of fairness, anyway.)

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Tommy O'Keefe

posted December 9, 2009 at 6:01 pm

I realize some people worry that a trial of this nature gives Khalid a bit of a “pulpit” to disseminate his views. However, I think it would be much more dangerous to have no public trial. Think of the way that could be spun as yet another evidence that we are the Great Satan, and then used to recruit more terrorists on the basis of American injustice. I think the upside to a public trial is that people can see for themselves that this man is guilty, and that the ideas he espouses are nonsensical at best.

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posted December 9, 2009 at 7:04 pm

It makes sense that we are country governed by rule of law and the constitution.

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posted December 9, 2009 at 7:07 pm

I am with those who say to leave the show trials to the Soviets. I am not a lawyer, and I don’t play one on TV. But here are some of the things that I have thought about:
When domestic cops arrest someone, they play by a set of rules. These rules involve a set of ethics and rituals like Miranda rights, etc. In a foreign war zone, the logistics and tactics can hardly be expected to be the same. Are Navy SEALS going to ask everyone in a building to stop for a moment so they can read someone their Miranda rights and then go on about extracting this or that militant?
The worry about technicalities is real. With all of its flaws, we have an excellent justice system compared to much of the rest of the world. But we did produce the OJ trials and more than one criminal has made hay out of technicalities. The Law and Order episode about a guy that chopped up a nun but all the evidence was inadmissable due to prodecural errors may be hyperbole but I worry…
The youtube videos of Holder tripping all over himself trying to answer Lindsay Graham are telling. This is a new precedent. What new rules on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq come with this new precedent? Suppose they capture OBL but don’t read him his rights, etc.? Is this notion of trying militants in civil court being stress-tested (so to speak) to make sure the whole process holds up, end to end? I’m guessing there is a mix of politics and good intentions here but to return to my opening, leave the show trials to the other guys.

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posted December 9, 2009 at 9:00 pm

My heartburn over this whole deal is that while I have no doubt of Kalid Sheikh Mohammed’s guilt. How can he possibly get a fair trial since both President Obama and A.G. Holder have delared him guilty. These were public pronouncements as reported again and again on news programs and in newspapers. Even if an untainted jury could be found who doesn?t know about 9/11?
I believe terriorists should be treated as militants and that military tribunals are the appropriate venue in which to be tried. There again with the Commander and Chief having declared his guilt how can he possibly get a fair trial? These could be made public.
I believe terriorists should be treated as militants and that military tribunals are the appropriate venue in which to be tried. There again with the Commander and Chief having declared his guilt how can he get a fair trial.
I am concerned about the New York venue being an ideal opportunity for new attacks, what a statement that would make.
I would hope that when Kalid Sheikh Mohammed is found guilty his sentence is lifetime in a rat hole. Do not make him a martyr which is what he desires and death would encourage others to seek the same fate.
Finally, consider the money that will be wasted on a show trial. Does any sensible person really believe that people with an ideology that teaches the slaughter of innocent women, children and men is righteous and God?s will are going to be impressed with a show trial.

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posted December 9, 2009 at 9:57 pm

They tried Eichmann in Jerusalem.

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Matt Dabbs

posted December 10, 2009 at 9:15 am

Obama initially took it even further than Holder in saying, “I don’t think it will be offensive at all when he’s convicted and when the death penalty is applied to him.” –
Not if but when. He later changed his position a bit as seen in that Reuters article.

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Travis Greene

posted December 10, 2009 at 10:12 am

Is a “show trial” worse than infinite detention with no trial or due process of any kind? A military tribunal or something like the Nuremburg trials might be another path.
I remain steadfast in opposition to the death penalty, even for this guy.

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posted December 10, 2009 at 10:56 am

“This trial will be a test of our resolve as a country to stand up to radical Islamic extremists. We have proven we can do it on the battlefield. Can we do it in our courtrooms as well?
It may be the deciding factor of whether or not the barbarians once again destroy Rome.”
David, I like and agree with your suggestion that we need to show we can deal with Islamic Extremism in the courtroom.
Do we really want to present ourselves as Rome, though?
Randy Gabrielse

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Ray Ingles

posted December 10, 2009 at 12:36 pm

According to what I’ve read, Britain and the Soviet Union were all for summary execution of the Nazis. It was the U.S. that held out for trials of the Nazi war criminals.
If we can try Nazis, we can try terrorists.

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posted December 10, 2009 at 7:03 pm

I can’t believe we’re having this conversation in this country. We’ve always tried enemy combatants in military tribunals. This show trial is going to be completely transparent to the whole world and probably embarrassing to us.

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Travis Greene

posted December 11, 2009 at 4:12 pm

Why would it be embarrassing?
Oh, right. Because we tortured the guy.

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posted December 11, 2009 at 8:51 pm

It’s going to make this problem 10x worse, I fear:

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