Will the Defendants Please Rise

14 Nov

It was announced yesterday that a group of terrorists, including Khalid Sheikh Muhammed, will be brought to Federal Court for the Southern District of New York to stand trial for conspiracy and mass murder.  They will be brought to New York from Guantanamo Bay, where they have been held and even tortured since being apprehended.

The conventional wisdom had been that, because this was an act of war, these people should be tried under military circumstances.  But war crimes have been tried, and are being tried under the auspices of the distinctly civilian Hague military tribunals, with much success.

There is a certain karmic and poetic justice in bringing these people to New York to stand trial before New Yorkers just steps from where two airplanes brought down the World Trade Center, killing 3,000 innocent, average commuters and travelers.

The torture that took place obviously renders a lot of evidence inadmissible in court, but if the government has enough untainted, admissible evidence of these historic crimes, then this is not a concern. Maybe we should stick them in with the general population on Riker’s Island.  If inmates accused of crimes against children get the shit beat out of them with regularity, I wonder what a tough street kid from an outer borough awaiting trial on an armed robbery charge might think of these guys.

I thought what Josh Marshall wrote on the subject was quite persuasive.

This isn’t just a matter of wanting to see punishment. It also vindicates our system of justice and values — and for it all to happen here, the scene of the crime, among the people of this city, not out on some island or in some secret jail.

Listening to the questions at Attorney General Holder’s press conference, I’m hearing again fears about giving the defendants a platform “to air their hateful views.” But really, who is so cowardly as to worry about what these five say? Is our standing and self-respect so brittle?

There’s a widespread belief that many seem to have that calling these people criminals and treating them as such somehow elevates their status and diminishes the fact that al Qaeda has effectively been making war on the United States. I’ve never understood this mindset. The key point in World War II is that at the end of the war the Allies would not deign to accord the leaders of Germany and Japan the respect accorded to defeated armies. They were tried as criminals. Because that is what they were.

Whether it’s fear that our justice system can’t mete justice out to these men, or worry that KSM or the others might mouth off about us at their trial, or concern about future attacks, I am continually surprised that the voices of cowardice and fear manage to convince themselves and others that they speak for courage and determination.

And Congressman Jerry Nadler’s district includes the World Trade Center.  He says,

I thank the Department of Justice and Attorney General Eric Holder for their diligent efforts to bring to justice those who have committed acts of terrorism against the United States. In particular, I applaud the decision to bring those individuals responsible for the attack on the World Trade Center to New York to face trial in our federal courts. New York is not afraid of terrorists, we want to confront them, we want to bring them to justice, and we want to hold them accountable for their despicable actions.

7 Responses to “Will the Defendants Please Rise”

  1. mike hudson November 14, 2009 at 11:27 am #

    this scum wouldn’t last five minutes in the general population at rikers. and it would save america the cost of a lengthy trial.

  2. Bill Altreuter November 14, 2009 at 12:10 pm #

    The United States Courts are the envy of much of the world, and as a lawyer I was personally affronted when the Bush Administration took the position that these crimes were somehow more than the system could handle. Of course, the reality is that our justice system will inevitably bring the crimes of the Bush Administration into the daylight, but that is a small price to pay in order to reestablish that we are a society of laws.

  3. Ward November 14, 2009 at 1:07 pm #

    In point of fact, these defendants will likely not “please rise”. For religious reasons. It remains to be seen whether Pundit takes note of that.

  4. HapKlein November 15, 2009 at 5:17 pm #

    This exonerates the legal establishment of this nation. Especially by placing the trial in Manhattan less than a mile from “Ground zero.” Some already insist a change in venue is necessary. Nonsense the defendants can get as much justice there as anywhere else in this nation.

    Sadly Muhammed and the others will be contemptuous and disruptive as possible. Let them it’s a free country and we can suffer their contemptible persona.

    I too join in the celebration that our system can manage to do justice to this challenge even if we do so eight years later. But the we haven’t done too much too well since 9/11 and you have to start somewhere.

  5. hank November 15, 2009 at 9:29 pm #

    I would imagine sleeper Al-Queda cells in the North East US have been waiting for this event to once again bring terror to New York City. The violence will not be selective. Again, sure is easy to sit in the boondocks of shit-hole Buffalo and think about terror cells painting targets on buildings or the subway system in NYC. Well, when it does take place at least you’ll get what you asked for—and probably a whole bunch more.

    • Chris from OP November 16, 2009 at 4:43 pm #

      So we should give up one of our most important values– equal justice under the law, because we are afraid?  I don’t think so.


  1. Be Not Afraid | WNYmedia.net - November 17, 2009

    […] controversy than I thought it would. I think that trying these people in a civilian criminal court re-establishes the fact that we are a place governed, above all, by laws. These trials will not be any more of a circus than the blind sheikh’s trial was in the 90s. […]

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