Due Process and Terrorism

edited April 2013 in General Discussion

So, the police have their man and the Boston Marathon bombing suspect has been brought into custody. Believe me, I am glad of it; the crime is heinous, and justice should be served. Perhaps unsurprisingly some, like Senator Graham have called for the terrorist suspect to be held as an enemy combatant, suspending due process. This is very troubling to me, as I fail to see why the judicial system we have isn't more than capable of producing the right outcome in this case.

The senator attempts to justify his position by saying they could interrogate him--I say that's a load of bull. He will most assuredly already be interrogated by the police, so the only difference would be that he would no longer have the right to remain silent. But if he's denied that right, and due process is suspended, then what does he have to lose? He can tell the truth, or lie, or just shut up just as easily. Torture (or "Enhanced Interrogation" methods as they are euphemistically called) used as a means to compel testimony has been proven time and time again to produce unreliable testimony. Which makes sense--the tortured wants the torture to end, and will tell his interrogators anything he thinks will get them to stop, whether it be a truth or a lie. More likely than not, he'll just tell them what he thinks they want to hear. (I also view torture as morally repugnant, but I find the argument over quality of testimony much harder to debate.)

The other "justification" I can think of for doing this is a fear that the defendant won't be convicted. For normal arrestees, the conviction rate is already very high (I don't have exact statistics handy, but I have heard figures quoted in the 90% range). Furthermore, the evidence for the terrorist's crimes appears to speak loudly enough that a guilty verdict is a foregone conclusion. Convictions have been obtained against people with much flimsier evidence than what is undoubtedly available to prosecutors. The magnitude of the crimes are such that I'd be very surprised if he doesn't spend the rest of his life incarcerated--which would likely be the same result if he were denied his rights and sent to Gitmo. A suspect this dangerous is also likely to be held without bail, so it's not like he'll have lots of escape opportunities that he otherwise wouldn't have. The only way I see him getting out of this would be severe incompetence on the part of the police, prosecutors, jurors and judges, which is a difficult argument for me to make.

So then, why are we talking about suspending due process, a constitutionally protected right, when the outcome is unlikely to change significantly if we do? Are we that afraid that the criminal justice system will somehow fail in this case? Let him try to defend himself as the law mandates. It will make our actions that more justified and right when he is convicted and sentenced. Suspending due process is the talk of cowards or those who wish for a slippery slope that suspends due process for more and more situations--a bad situation for everyone.

Finally, I would like to say my thoughts are with those who have been affected by this terrible tragedy. May we learn to live strong and without fear in the face of such evil.

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Comments

  • It likely won't happen because the Obama Administration isn't likely to support it. This is more or less being brought up just to make an example out of the suspect. So to put it simply, it's a fear mongering tactic for any potential terrorist. Radical Islam continues to be a threat, why not show them what happens when they get prosecuted?

    Yes, it's terrible. Thanks for bringing it to my attention though.

  • Some more reading, this time from the excellent and entertaining law blog PopeHat: http://www.popehat.com/2013/04/20/brave-new-world-miranda-roundup/

  • I agree that the suspect should not be tried in a military court. 1) the military didn't apprehend him 2) the suspects were US citizens not foreign terrorists 3) the guy who shot up the theater in Colorado is being tried in public court. His crime was no worse than what the bombing suspect did in Boston. Additionally the Oklahoma City bombers were both tried in federal court.

  • Simon said:

    So, the police have their man and the Boston Marathon bombing suspect has been brought into custody. Believe me, I am glad of it; the crime is heinous, and justice should be served. Perhaps unsurprisingly some, like Senator Graham have called for the terrorist suspect to be held as an enemy combatant, suspending due process. This is very troubling to me, as I fail to see why the judicial system we have isn't more than capable of producing the right outcome in this case.

    The senator attempts to justify his position by saying they could interrogate him--I say that's a load of bull. He will most assuredly already be interrogated by the police, so the only difference would be that he would no longer have the right to remain silent. But if he's denied that right, and due process is suspended, then what does he have to lose? He can tell the truth, or lie, or just shut up just as easily. Torture (or "Enhanced Interrogation" methods as they are euphemistically called) used as a means to compel testimony has been proven time and time again to produce unreliable testimony. Which makes sense--the tortured wants the torture to end, and will tell his interrogators anything he thinks will get them to stop, whether it be a truth or a lie. More likely than not, he'll just tell them what he thinks they want to hear. (I also view torture as morally repugnant, but I find the argument over quality of testimony much harder to debate.)

    The other "justification" I can think of for doing this is a fear that the defendant won't be convicted. For normal arrestees, the conviction rate is already very high (I don't have exact statistics handy, but I have heard figures quoted in the 90% range). Furthermore, the evidence for the terrorist's crimes appears to speak loudly enough that a guilty verdict is a foregone conclusion. Convictions have been obtained against people with much flimsier evidence than what is undoubtedly available to prosecutors. The magnitude of the crimes are such that I'd be very surprised if he doesn't spend the rest of his life incarcerated--which would likely be the same result if he were denied his rights and sent to Gitmo. A suspect this dangerous is also likely to be held without bail, so it's not like he'll have lots of escape opportunities that he otherwise wouldn't have. The only way I see him getting out of this would be severe incompetence on the part of the police, prosecutors, jurors and judges, which is a difficult argument for me to make.

    So then, why are we talking about suspending due process, a constitutionally protected right, when the outcome is unlikely to change significantly if we do? Are we that afraid that the criminal justice system will somehow fail in this case? Let him try to defend himself as the law mandates. It will make our actions that more justified and right when he is convicted and sentenced. Suspending due process is the talk of cowards or those who wish for a slippery slope that suspends due process for more and more situations--a bad situation for everyone.

    Finally, I would like to say my thoughts are with those who have been affected by this terrible tragedy. May we learn to live strong and without fear in the face of such evil.

    Well said SImon... Well said.

    :-?

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