Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Shocking Death Penalty Pretrial Publicity Campaign Waged by Our Nation's Top Officers

Here is how the New York Daily News reported on Attorney General Eric Holder's testimony today before the Senate defending his decision to conduct the capital trials of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and his cohorts in federal court in downtown Manhattan, along with the supporting comments of the President:
WASHINGTON - President Obama played chief prosecutor in the looming New York City 9/11 trial today, predicting critics will shut up when Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is convicted and executed for masterminding the attacks. "I don't think it would be offensive at all when he's convicted and when the death penalty is applied to him," Obama told NBC News.
If a U.S. federal prosecutor in any other capital case pending in federal court were to make these kinds of remarks in public, let alone openly to the people of the United States, there would be serious ethical concerns raised about injurious pretrial publicity. Worse, here is the response of AG Holder to criticism from Sen. Sessions for his decision to conduct these trials in civilian criminal court, made to the elected Senatorial representatives of the people of the United States:
But Holder scoffed at that, insisting KSM's voice and "hateful ideologies" will be no louder in civilian court than in a military commission. "We need not cower in the face of this enemy," Holder said. If KSM repeats his earlier rants in the courthouse at the U.S. naval base in Cuba, "the nation and world will see him for the coward he is," the attorney general added. "I'm not scared of what KSM has to say at trial - and no one else needs to be afraid, either."
If these remarks from the President and the Attorney General are not specifically intended to incriminate the defendants here and to promote highly prejudicial pretrial publicity in aid of pursuing the death penalty for them, then I'm a monkey's uncle. If this is to become acceptable ethical precedent for prosecutors in future U.S. capital litigation, the damage caused by our Chief Executive and his Chief Prosecutor will be staggering. The real issue here is whether these defendants should be tried in domestic criminal courts at all. Bad facts make bad law. We should think twice before we let the facts of war make law for our own citizens.


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