WNYC's Bob Hennelly is an award-winning investigative journalist. While at WNYC he has reported on a wide gamut of major public policy questions ranging from immigration and homeland security to power outages and utility mergers.
The jury in the Medunjanin terror began deliberations on Monday on the fate of a 28-year-old accused of plotting terrorist attacks on the city’s subway system.
Less than an hour after being given instructions from Judge John Gleeson, the jury sent out their first note asking for clarification on the elements of the charges the defendant faces. After lunch, the jury asked for some phone records in the case.
Defense attorney Robert Gottlieb told reporters he took that as a sign the jury was living up to their heavy obligation. "The jury is taking it seriously. The case is complex," Gotlieb said.
Adis Medunjanin faces up to life in prison for his alleged role in an al-Qaida inspired 2009 suicide bomb plot that targeted the city’s subways. Two men, former high school classmates of Medunjanin, have pleaded guilty in the case and are cooperating in the prosecution of their high school classmate.
Gottlieb took the opportunity to blast the government's reliance on "military commissions, secret tribunals or star chambers" instead of civilian trials to prosecute terrorism cases. He said the ongoing Brooklyn case was all the evidence needed to prove the nation's civilian courts were up to the task
"Everyone should take note of what is going on in this court. We have a public court where citizens, twelve citizens are deciding whether somebody committed very serious crimes related to this case which involve terrorism," Gottlieb said. "All these cynics, all the those politicians who have tried to make hay ever since September 11th, by demanding that these case be taken away from citizens, should take note they undermine the Constitution and what this country is all about."
The trial offered two very different images of the defendant Medunjanin. The defense said he was a devout Muslim, whose family escaped persecution in Bosnia, and hoped to join the Taliban to defend innocent civilians in Afghanistan. But prosecutors said Medunjanin attended an al-Qaida training camp and was so intent on self-destructive violence that, as the FBI closed in, he decided to crash his car at 90 miles an hour in hopes of creating mass casualties.
The federal terrorism case was unusual in that there was no government sting or covert operative on the inside of the alleged conspiracy.
Instead, jurors heard from four men, who all had been convicted of terrorism-related charges. They offered an unprecedented look at their separate paths to radicalization through the persuasive sermons of Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical U.S. born cleric killed in a U.S. drone attack in Yemen.
Due to the nature of the case the jury has been kept anonymous.