Click to see the beacon journal online
Homes   Jobs   Cars   Shopping
Akron Law Café -- Community Blog

Previous post:

Next post:

9/11 Plotters to Face Death Penalty in New York Federal Court

by Professor Will Huhn on November 14, 2009

in Constitutional Law,Criminal Law,Wilson Huhn

     Attorney General Eric Holder has decided to try five prisoners in the war on terror, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, on criminal charges in New York for the attacks of September 11.  They will face the death penalty.

    Yesterday Attorney General Eric Holder released a statement in which he said:

For the past several months, prosecutors at the Department of Justice have been working diligently with prosecutors from the Pentagonâs Office of Military Commissions to review the case of each detainee at Guantanamo who has been referred for prosecution. Over the past few weeks, I have personally reviewed these cases, and in consultation with the Secretary of Defense, have made determinations about the prosecution of ten detainees now held at Guantanamo, including those charged in the 9/11 plot and the alleged mastermind of the Cole bombing.

Today, I am announcing that the Department of Justice will pursue prosecution in federal court of the five individuals accused of conspiring to commit the 9/11 attacks. Further, I have decided to refer back to the Department of Defense five defendants to face military commission trials, including the detainee who was previously charged in the USS Cole bombing.

The 9/11 cases that will be pursued in federal court have been jointly assigned to prosecutors from the Southern District of New York and the Eastern District of Virginia and will be brought in Manhattan in the Southern District of New York. After eight years of delay, those allegedly responsible for the attacks of September the 11th will finally face justice. They will be brought to New York to answer for their alleged crimes in a courthouse just blocks from where the twin towers once stood.

     In this report CNN quotes Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) as opposing the trials in New York because it "needlessly compromises the safety of all Americans," and Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) as stating that trials in criminal court because it would "prioritize the rights of terrorists over the rights of Americans to be safe and secure."  The report also quotes Kristen Breitweiser, whose husband was killed in the attack, as supporting the administration's decision because "it would give many of us access to attend the hearings … this will be our opportunity to see justice served and have our day in court."  Josh Gerstein at The Politico reports that many other families of victims of the attack are opposed to the trial, and would rather see the plotters tried in military court.  House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) issued a statement in which he said:

The Obama Administrationâs irresponsible decision to prosecute the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks in New York City puts the interests of liberal special interest groups before the safety and security of the American people. The possibility that Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his co-conspirators could be found ânot guiltyâ due to some legal technicality just blocks from Ground Zero should give every American pause.

     In my opinion, the Attorney General made the correct decision.  Even if acquitted, the defendants would not be released from custody.  They are admittedly supporters of al-Qaeda who have waged war against us, and regardless of the outcome of any military or civilian trial we may continue to detain them as prisoners of war for the duration of this conflict – which may be a very long time.

     But there is a more fundamental reason to try these persons in America, in New York, in federal court.  Trial in civilian court will demonstrate to the rest of world that even in the face of a massive attack we have faith in our legal institutions and constitutional processes.   As an attorney, I am proud of the criminal justice system, and I have confidence that our prosecutors, judges, and juries will determine the truth and mete out appropriate punishment.  As an American citizen, I am proud that we have the courage to try these men as criminals – that we say to terrorists around the world – WE ARE NOT AFRAID!