Thursday, April 24, 2008

Well, Golly, That Sure Sounds Like Justice

From CNN.com comes some detail about the attorney who will represent one of the highest of high profile defendants - Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. Is he a seasoned capital litigator? Nope:

Prescott Prince is a small-town lawyer who has never taken a death penalty case to trial.
Well, that's great. I can't imagine there are lots of capital trials in practices focusing on admiralty and maritime law. He'll have the assistance of some more experienced counsel, but still, it underwhelms.

But that's OK. The trial in front of a military tribunal will be a fair and just process right? Well . . .
No civilian court, he says, would accept confessions obtained after a defendant was mistreated. But the CIA admits Mohammed was waterboarded, a controversial interrogation technique that involves simulated drowning.

'I take the position that this is mock execution. ... Colloquially speaking, at least it's torture,' Prince said.

The fact that whatever Mohammed said during such duress could be used at trial is alarming to Prince.

'That's not the rule of law. That's just insanity.'
So, let's see - we've got inexperienced (though well-meaning, from all accounts) counsel, evidence extracted by torture, all in a case taking place basically in secret. That's truth, justice, and the American way, kids - 21st century style!

2 comments:

sarah jo said...

Honestly. You should do your research on this one. Not taking a death penalty to trial does not mean inexperienced. being able to settle out of court takes expert negotiation; I doubt that Captain Prince would be seen as failing if he could negotiate out of court. Prince shows every sign of a true patriot. The military would not appoint an inadequate attorney; it would risk mistrial. I am sorry, but you are just not right. Feel free to respond on this one...I just think you take a decent opinion, although underdeveloped. Prince is a patriot. . . hardly inadequate

JDB said...

I think you miss my point, sarah jo. I've got no reason to think Capt. Prince is anything other than a good honorable man and a fine attorney. It's certainly admirable that when called upon to be the man who represents KSM he didn't back down.

My beef is with the the Government putting its fingers on the scales of justice. The article mentions the problems with tortured evidence being admitted as one example. Selecting a defense attorney with no appreciable capital experience is another. Look at the counsel appointed to represent folks like Tim McVeigh or the ringleader of the first WTC attack - that's the kind of experience needed.

As for whether Capt. Prince's skill at negotiation is relevant, I'm not sure. For one, is there evidence that he has a particular knack of negotiating favorable plea bargains for capital clients? One would think the CNN piece would mention that.

But even if that's true, what makes you think any kind of a deal is possible in these cases? The former chief prosecutor for the Gitmo tribunals admitted that the process was set up to avoid the possibility of acquittal. (See http://www.thenation.com/doc/20080303/tuttle). This isn't a situation where KSM has any ammo to bring to a negotiation.

As I said, I've got nothing against Capt. Prince. I wish him well. But he's a symptom of what's wrong with this whole military tribunal setup.