Old School Justice

Yesterday in a courtroom in downtown Manhattan nothing very special happened. A jury of ordinary New Yorkers sifted the evidence presented to them and convicted the defendant of a serious charge they felt the Prosecution had substantiated.

The defendant in question was Ahmed Ghailani who was accused of playing a supporting role in the 1998 bombings of two US embassies in Africa. The bombings were horrific. In Nairobi at least 212 people were killed including embassy staff and many local Kenyan residents. In Dar es Salaam at least 11 people were killed. Many hundreds more were severely injured by the blasts.

Ghailani has been convicted of conspiracy to destroy US government buildings with explosives. He faces a minimum sentence of twenty years and maximum sentence of life in prison. He is now a convicted felon. Due process was observed. Evidence collected illegally was excluded. Justice was done.

That’s the way it’s supposed to be. As Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss), outgoing Chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, put it:

“I trust our men and women in uniform to protect the public. I trust our system of jurisprudence in America. I don’t care how bad you are, we can still put you on trial and if the evidence warrants a conviction you’ll get it.”

Susan F. Hirsch, whose husband was killed in the Tanzania attack, thanked the jury for its service, but added:

“I can’t help but feel that the case would have been stronger had Ghailani been brought to trial when he was captured in 2004.”

It’s an important point from someone directly concerned in this case – a little more police work and a lot less thuggery would have served the prosecution’s case much better.

Of course it didn’t take long for the fear-mongers to regroup and for their chorus of disapproval to reach the airwaves. Representative Peter King (R-NY) issued a statement in which he said he was “disgusted at the total miscarriage of justice” and that Ghailani’s conviction demonstrated “the absolute insanity” of trying terrorism suspects in federal court. No, I didn’t quite follow his logic either.