Monday, November 16, 2009

Civilian Trial For Mohammed

Khaleid Sheikh Mohammed will be tried in civilian court. Is it a good idea? I think so.

It upholds American ideals which hold that everyone is entitled to a free and fair trial. Now, many of you might argue with good reason that Mohammed isn’t entitled to constitutional rights because he isn’t a citizen. But that isn’t sufficient to deny him a public trial in my mind. It seems the ability to publicly confront one’s accuser and have an open trial derive not from a particular amendment in the constitution, but rather from our national ideals. Even Timothy McVeigh, who mercilessly killed 168 innocent people without cause got a trial, and millions of dollars spent on his legal defense.

Moreover, it is a tangible demonstration of American ideals. We don’t just espouse ideals and then forget about them the second they’re inconvenient. The right to speech becomes meaningful not because we protect it for people who sing “God Bless America,” but because we protect it for people who espouse the most repugnant views like the KKK. In the same way, the right to a trial is meaningful when we give it to people we hate like Mohammed.

Now, there are some tricky issues. How can we make sure the jury is fair? How can we ask them to weigh complicated evidence such as confessions that may have been induced under torture? It will indeed be hard to find a jury who’s never heard of 9/11. But that’s not sufficient reason not to have a trial. After all, everyone had heard of Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombings. As for complicated evidence, we ask jurors to weigh testimony from experts, or DNA evidence all the time. There are definitely some issues with national security issues that I’ll write about in the future.

But for now, the Gadson Review gives a thumbs up to trying Mohammed in civilian courts.

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