Terrorist Trial Raises Fears of Acquittal

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Alleged September 11, 2001 architect Khalid Shaikh Mohammed has never hidden his crimes. He has often professed a desire to declare himself guilty. But with news that he and four other suspects will be tried in New York City civilian federal court, some observers are concerned that he might be acquitted. The fact that Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times by U.S. officials is fueling these fears, as it could be a significant asset for his defense lawyer. It seems incredibly unlikely that President Obama would allow a high-profile terrorist to walk free, but Obama has no authority over the courts. What if the judge rules in Mohammed's favor?

  • Acquittal Maybe, But Release? Never  Conservative blogger Allahpundit doubts Obama would ever allow Mohammed to be released. "My guess is that O's banking on a conviction to legitimize his 'try them in civilian courts' strategy, and that if the worst happens and KSM is acquitted, O will simply bite the bullet and say, 'Sorry, can't let him go.' ACLU will howl, but oh well. They'll come up with an excuse. 'Um, we found some new evidence of something else he did. Have to arrest him again.' I worry less about acquitting KSM, who's notorious enough that it's highly unlikely, than lesser jihadbot whom O might feel ok letting go."
  • That's The Worst Scenario  Hot Air's Ed Morrissey concedes KSM will never walk, but Obama detaining him despite acquittal is what makes a civilian trial so dangerous. "What happens if the judge throws out key evidence over nitpicky technicalities?  What happens if KSM and others get found not guilty because of gaps in the evidence chain resulting from national-security issues or 'evidentiary issues'?" He asks. "And if Obama isn’t prepared to let them walk after a potential acquittal, then it makes a mockery of the criminal trial, and of the justice system itself." Powerline's John Hinderaker asks, if they have no plans to honor an acquittal, "why are they holding the trial?"
  • The Risk Is a Good Thing  Spencer Ackerman's guest-blogger M. LeBlanc argues that the risk of acquittal is exactly why it's so important to try KSM in a civilian court. "But that’s just it. The possibility of failure, the possibility that the evidence will all fall apart, or be thrown out if it’s tainted or no good, that witnesses will recant or prove unreliable, that the defendant will be acquitted—all those possibilities—make it the only kind of justice worth having."
  • What About a Hung Jury?  RedState's Dan McLaughlin explores the scenarios. "I'm not seriously concerned that KSM stands any chance of being acquitted, but a hung jury? It only takes one person with extreme political or religious views, one juror who just can’t abide the death penalty (even assuming Obama’s DOJ pursues it). Just imagine the controversy, if there are Muslims in the jury pool, over what questions prosecutors are permitted to ask them and whether they can be challenged."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.