Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Padilla verdict

A Miami jury convicted Jose Padilla and two co-defendants today.

It may be that one, two or all three of the defendants are guilty as charged. But I despise this administration--and what it has done to our Constitution--so much that I really wanted the jury to acquit them.

I confess that I did not follow the trial--which took three months--in great detail. However, based on what I know, it seems that a large part of the prosecution's case, especially against the co-defendants, was based on interpretation of wiretapped conversations that were, in the government's version, in code. This was not the kind of code that can be broken through mathematical means or letter-substitution. What the government was really talking about was interpreting slang. And, apparently, the prosecution was unable to show that the slang at issue was so widely used in the defendants' community that its interpretation could be clear. Indeed, the defense called witnesses who said that the government investigators--who knew what the prosecution wanted, after all--had it all wrong. They gave innocent interpretations to the conversations in question.

If you think about it, we all speak in code much of the time. I used to say that if you wanted to find out whether a suspected spy was really an American in the '50's, 60's or '70's, you'd ask him to interpret this sentence: "The Bosox return to friendly Fenway to face the Tribe under the arcs as they continue their pursuit of the gonfalon in the junior circuit." (Translation below.) No Russian, now matter how well-trained in American mores and customs, would get it.

Against Padilla, the government's main piece of evidence was an alleged application for admission to an al Qaeda terrorist training camp. Forget the very improbability of that idea. (Does bin Laden put "Terrorist" down as his occupation on his income-tax return?) Padilla's fingerprints were on the document, but from what I have seen, the government was not able to show that he had not left them when he handled it during his lengthy (to say the least) "interrogation." (Some of us call it torture.)

So, did Padilla and the others get a fair trial? Given the culture of fear that has pervaded the nation these last six years, the nature of the charges, the locale of the trial (Miami) and the jury-selection process, could the jury be impartial? Remember that originally, Padilla was charged by the highest law-enforcement official in the land (John, "Too Dumb To Beat A Dead Guy" Ashcroft) with planning to set off a "dirty" nuclear device. Could Padilla assist in his own defense--a requisite of fair, or even legal, trials, after 3 1/2 years of solitary confinement interrupted by interrogation and abuse (some of us call it torture)? I doubt it. I doubt it very much. Could the trial have been fair? Let's just say that the defense faced substantial obstacles.

A prediction: Padilla will get a long sentence. His conviction will be upheld by a Republican-dominated Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court will refuse to hear the case. He will be pardoned by a future President, but not until he has served a lengthy period in jail.

(For those who are baseball-challenged, the test sentence translates as follows: The Red Sox come home after a road-trip, to play a night game against the Cleveland Indians in the American League pennant race.)


TheRiver said...

But I despise this administration--and what it has done to our Constitution--so much that I really wanted the jury to acquit them.

I too despise this administration, but I wanted him acquitted simply because he was tortured. I would have felt the same had Clinton tortured him.

I don't want torture to be a standard part of our justice system. Yes he's probably a scumbag. But we don't torture people - not even scumbags.

Why the hell have a system of laws if we ignore them? Why not have an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth the way the Sunni and the Shia in Iraq seem to do it?

After thousands of years of civilization It's as if we've learned nothing; a civilized society based on the rule of law does not torture. Period.

Leanderthal, Lighthouse Keeper said...

I agree with "theriver".

I also despise this administration, but I'm also mindful that decent people I know, some of them kin, are quick to jump on our "despise"
stance and say things like, "You can always tell those who spout phrases and talking points without thinking", or who are so much a part of a "camp that they can't escape".

I admit that when I see and hear George W. Bush, my hair stands on end. That is an
instinctive reaction. It's beyond logic or emotion, it's visceral.

However I also had a similar reaction to Gore in 2000. That was a gag reaction, but equally visceral.

That's why I voted for Nader. I had the least visceral reaction to him than to the others, justifying my vote as a contributor to a need for a new view/party in American politics.

Today, I hope neither he nor Bloomberg will fall prey to their Narcisim and come to acknowowldege that, in the interest of the country, they should not try to play the spoiler.

Perhaps I wasted my vote. Perhaps if I had voted for Gore we wouldn't be in Iraq today. Perhaps we would be in a differnet but possibly equally disastrous situation. That is wasted and fruitless speculation.

I published a post about my doubts that much will change after 2008, regardless of whether a Repub or a Dem is elected, especially if the choice is between a Repub or Dem professional politician.

I can't support Hillary because she is likely, as president, to focus more on how she's doing with her supporters, than on what she needs and should do, as a leader, to engage the people in support of those mores and values we are fond of talking about, but which those in authority today seem to so easily compromise.

I suspect that she would be more engaged in being sure she is re-elected for a second term, pleasing those who took her to the dance, than on the mood of the people and how she could lead them to feel good again about themselves and their country.

I'm afraid that Hillary is more skilled as a politician,(e.g. her posturing, cleverness, debating skills and ability to raise money), than a statesmen, stateswoman, or statesperson; take your pick among the awkward choices.

In fact I suspect that the use of the word "skills", in and of itself. is revealing of a character flaw if one is looking for what constitutes the qualities of a genuine leader.

I also hope that the electorate in 2008, however uninformed of and disconnected from, what is called "realpolitik, will trust its collective gut and vote to bring into the White House that person, male or female,black or white, in whom it places its hope for one who will lead it(us) as a people who do not shy from competition, and in fact thrive on it; and will somehow find a way to inspire,energize and challenge us to lead, pave the way, invent, and take to market those ideas and concepts which are needed to assure the continued healthy and sustainable existence of our environment, and by extension, us; that is Planet Earth.

Lighthouse Keeper

Your brother said...

I knew that!!
Both the "code" and the result. I am sure the prosecution couldn't decipher it either. But I could,being a long time Sox fan.

The Old New Englander said...