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Ghailani Verdict

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ahmed Ghailani, the first Guantanamo detainee to be tried by a U.S. civilian court, was acquitted on all but one of more than 280 charges Wednesday by a jury in U.S. federal court in Manhattan. Karen Greenberg, executive director of the Center on Law and Security at NYU Law School, discusses the Ghailani mixed verdict and how it plays into the ongoing debate about civilian versus military trials.

Guests:

Karen Greenberg

Comments [26]

noah from Park Slope

THis was disgusting to hear. To hear the guest unashamedly, talk about whether or not our nation should be giving the rights of justice to those we have held against their will without trial for YEARS. How can we be talking about the federal government being cautious or RISKING an acquittal, RISKING the application of justice?

The idea that 14 "high value" detainee's, one of whom is not even guilty of murder(!), were needed to legitimize the myth, the bigotry, that holds that gitmo held the "worst of the worst" is appalling.

And, Mr. Lehrer, do we need to have a call in to find out if the law should be applied "even for an ACCUSED terrorist?" What kind of inhumane, un-American question is that?

Nov. 21 2010 04:34 PM
LVK from NYC

Let the guy go. Come on, conspiracy to destroy government property? If that is the case, shouldn't Obama's buddy, Bill Ayres, be in jail for life ?

Nov. 19 2010 12:07 AM
DAT from Nathan Straus Projects

Personally, I would have a very hard time,
if not impossible, of convicting anyone
on anything, where I knew torture was
used to extract a confession.

To make the pain go away, most
people would confess to anything.

Peter King should not have said what
he did, he was not in that jury room.

I am very proud of the way the jury
was guided just by the evidence
presented and not by the political
pressure to vote one way or the other.

The Prosecutor did not have the goods
and the jury saw right through it.

Nov. 18 2010 04:07 PM
T. Mailman from Brooklyn

The jury convicted Ghailani based on the evidence they heard. The prosecution clearly did not put forward a good case for the other charges, and this began early on with actions sanctioned by the U.S. government like extraordinary rendition and torture. Perhaps if evidence had been obtained through legitimate means, the prosecution would have had a stronger case to present. Would we have wanted a civilian or military court to convict Ghailani just in principle, despite what evidence was or was not brought forth? Is that really what we want our justice system, civilian or military, to look like?

Nov. 18 2010 12:45 PM
Ed from Queens NY

How is it possible to be convicted of conspiracy to blow up a government building in which mass murder results and not be convicted on any one of those murders. This is shocking total denial of logic. 276 people are dead because of the actions of this man and this is totally ignored.

If civilian courts cannot connect the death to destruction of buildings the these procedures should take place in military context.

Nov. 18 2010 11:50 AM
Lori from Montclair, NJ

Peter King is off the rails. His post 911 comments have been hysterical and irrational. I truly think that he has PTSD or, more cynically, continues to revisit 9/11 to further his political career. His behavior is NOT helping people heal and, as a lawmaker, he should show more respect for the American justice system.

Nov. 18 2010 10:40 AM
Naseem from Jersey City

A few things to clarify from a legal standpoint:

1. Whether we are at war is unclear at best -- Congress never declared war, and the military has been operating under an AUMF ("authorization of military force").

2. Even assuming we're at war, individuals such as Ghailani were not captured on a battle field, so they're not considered enemy combatants and are not fit for military tribunals -- rather, they are fit for civilian court.

3. Even assuming Ghailani was captured on a battle field, he can only be tried by military tribunal if the tribunals conform to the requirements of the Geneva Conventions, to which the US is a party. Because these tribunals do not conform to these requirements, these individuals must be tried in courts that do conform -- i.e., civilian courts.

4. There is no such thing as an "illegal combatant" under the Geneva Conventions; this term is an invention of the Bush administration that has no basis in domestic or international law. An individual is either an enemy combatant or not an enemy combatant -- there is no in between.

Nov. 18 2010 10:37 AM
Critically Thinking from NYC

Great exchange of ideas. What's so interesting is how much torture turned out not to work -- not just in being ineffective for gathering intel, but for actually interfering with a prosecution against terrorism. It make the costs all of the torture all the more tragic. I highly recommend reflecting on some of the theme contained in the book None of Us Were Like This Before.

Nov. 18 2010 10:37 AM
Jim

To those who would have tried him in a military tribunal, consider that the embassy bombings for which he was tried and convicted occurred well before the declaration of the War on Terror. I don't recall any suggestion that military tribunals were appropriate at the time of the first embassy bombings trials, nor at the time of the first World Trade Center bombing. I wonder how the tribunal supporters feel about civil commitment.

Nov. 18 2010 10:36 AM
cfredc from New York


Peter King was for many years the number one U.S. defender of terrorism.

As long as the terrorists were Irish, it was okay with Peter.

Nov. 18 2010 10:35 AM

We can't accept evidence provided by torture. Why is this so hard for conservatives to understand? We can make these people confess to the Kennedy assassination. So what? Should we convict them for that too?

Nov. 18 2010 10:34 AM
Edward from NJ

The military tribunal of Salim Hamdan -- aka bin Laden's driver -- also yielded a mixed verdict. That led to a life sentence. So it's not as if this would have been a guaranteed conviction in a military court.

Nov. 18 2010 10:33 AM
john from office

These trials belong in military tribunals. These are war criminals who are out to distroy our society. Those who give them the benifit of the doubt, will end like Mr. Pearl. Beheaded because he was an American and a Jew.

Nov. 18 2010 10:30 AM
Bob Kern from Avon-by-the-Sea, NJ

Ratchet up the right-wing Wurlitzer. This will become "proof" that military tribunals are "more effective." The bloodlust rhetoric will be rousing the uninformed. Thanks, Brian, for giving us some facts to combat the tsunami of ignorant bloviation that will be coming our way.

Nov. 18 2010 10:27 AM
Lana

We're surprised because the only people who end up on juries in New York are those without the motivation or the creativity to get themselves excused.

Nov. 18 2010 10:26 AM

We need to remember that autocratic police states will feed us scapegoats when we demand terrorists. They have no problem scooping up random slum dwellers and torturing them into "confessions". Conservatives need to look in the mirror when they find themselves putting their faith in paramilitary torturers.

Nov. 18 2010 10:25 AM
ArtyQueens from Forest Hills

A New York Jury found him not guilty of almost every charge? What kind of idiots were the prosecurors and those who held him all these years?
I hope I never wind up in their sights!

Nov. 18 2010 10:23 AM
galit from Manhattan

I completely agree with the comments from Nat. I was very bothered to hear your guest be so surprised to hear a not guilty verdict and insinuate that all the verdicts need to be guilty. We have had many trials of known guilty people who have gotten away with their crimes, need I remind everyone of O.J. This is just fine, our system is perfect in its flaws. It does not guarantee verdicts and that makes me very happy to be an American.

Nov. 18 2010 10:22 AM
Victor Sanchez from Morningside Heights

Has Congress declared a war? If not, how can these be acts of war? Not defending the actions of the accused, but argue the point that these are acts of war if Congress has never declared war, which is mandated in the constitution.

Nov. 18 2010 10:19 AM
nat from Brooklyn

The notion that these trials must produce guilty verdicts flies in the very face of our tradition of jurisprudence. It is the government's job to prove, with evidence, beyond a reasonable doubt that people are guilty. Prosecutors cannot rely on the fact that this is New York City, and we all have a blood lust for 9/11 revenge and use only circumstantial evidence.

Simply put, if we can't prove someone is a terrorist in the court of law, can we really feel comfortable putting people away forever? Isn't that the problem with Gitmo to begin with?

Hiding legal proceedings in secret back room military tribunals with undisclosed rules of operation is something dictatorial human rights violating regimes do all over the world. We must hold ourselves to a different standard, and actually prove that these folks are guilty.

Nov. 18 2010 10:17 AM
dsimon from Manhattan

I think it's not appropriate to ask people to weigh in on a verdict when we were not at the trial to evaluate the evidence. It's very difficult to second-guess a jury without sitting through the same process they did. Yet we are expected to be "omni-opinionated" on things on which we have no real knowledge.

I think polling on whether the verdict was a good one is meaningless and only encourages the flawed view that we should be entitled to pass judgment merely on what we feel about government accusations and not on what is actually presented as evidence.

Nov. 18 2010 10:15 AM

Contrary to what caller Alex said: evidence gained under torture or other coercive methods is *also* inadmissible in military tribunals. Please don't let the wingnut contingent make this an actual issue in the discussion.

Nov. 18 2010 10:15 AM
nat from Brooklyn

The notion that these trials must produce guilty verdicts flies in the very face of our tradition of jurisprudence. It is the government's job to prove, with evidence, beyond a reasonable doubt that people are guilty. Prosecutors cannot rely on the fact that this is New York City, and we all have a blood lust for 9/11 revenge and use only circumstantial evidence.

Simply put, if we can't prove someone is a terrorist in the court of law, can we really feel comfortable putting people away forever? Isn't that the problem with Gitmo to begin with?

Hiding legal proceedings in secret back room military tribunals with undisclosed rules of operation is something dictatorial human rights violating regimes do all over the world. We must hold ourselves to a different standard, and actually prove that these folks are guilty.

Nov. 18 2010 10:15 AM
Karen from NYC

This outcome shows that torture is a bad policy and civilian trials work. The government wants to take these trials military to deprive defendants of due process. In the civilian system, evidence procured by torture was excluded. That's how it should be. The defendant was acquitted because, without the (unreliable) evidence obtained via torture, there as not sufficient evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

That's called due process, and it's what the American legal system is supposed to be about. For everyone. The lesson for the government is -- next time, don't torture people.

Nov. 18 2010 10:11 AM
Brav-O! from Brooklyn

Regardless of Ghailani's guilt or innocence, this verdict proves that ordinary New Yorkers are brave enough to set their hurt and prejudice aside and make a dispassionate ruling on the facts. I'm proud of us.

Nov. 18 2010 10:07 AM
What're we fightin 4

Proud to say that I trust the people more than the army. Let the chips fall where they may.

Nov. 18 2010 09:46 AM

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