Tuesday, March 27, 2007

'Shabby Show Trial'


Twice yesterday Guantanamo detainee David Hicks was hauled before Marine colonel Ralph H. Kohlmann, who was pretending to be a real judge. The second time, late last night, Hicks finally agreed to enter a plea of guilty one charge of 'supporting terrorism' in Afghanistan.

Jackie Northam of NPR is reporting this morning that the one charge Hicks is admitting to is the lesser of the two charges against him. We can't be sure, though, because the Marine colonel has imposed a gag order on all the lawyers. He also has to approve news reporters and the work of courtroom cartoonists.

But the New York Times assures us that Hicks "answered calmly several times" with the words. "No, sir" to signal his compliance with the oddly hasty decision.

The Miami Herald's Carol Rosenberg writes:
Hicks, 31, offered the extraordinary plea at about 8:30 p.m. after an on-again, off-again day of pretrial proceedings at his arraignment.
Good for Hicks, although he is a painfully slow learner. Five years in confinement in the black hole of Guantanamo, subjected to god-only-knows what "interrogation techniques." Light bulbs burning 24/7 in his cell so he couldn't sleep. An earlier hearing, where Hicks had the temerity to object to the hearing as unconstitutional -- and even win when the U.S. Supreme Court declared it a violation of due process. Months in solitary confinement starting immediately afterwards.

Earlier yesterday, it seems Hicks even tried to have his own chosen lawyers represent him, but Colonel Kohlmann quickly put a stop to that nonsense. The colonel fired Hicks' two civilian lawyers, cleverly asserting that their papers weren't in order, which left the defendant alone with his Pentagon-appointed lawyer. Rosenberg reports in a McClatchy News Service version of the same Miami Herald article:
Kohlmann excused attorney Rebecca Snyder because, although she was a reserve officer in the U.S. Navy, his reading of the rules said that a taxpayer-paid defense attorney could only be an active-duty officer, in uniform.

Next, Kohlmann excused New York defense attorney Joshua Dratel from the team, after Dratel said he wouldn't agree to sign a pre-trial agreement that Kohlmann was requiring, since Secretary of Defense Robert Gates had yet to issue rules governing military commission defense lawyers.

Now, that's efficient justice! Enforcing rules to get rid of pesky lawyers even before the rules are written.

As for U.S. Navy Reserve officer Rebecca Snyder, we fully expect Colonel Kohlmann to generously help her to serve as lawyer real soon by calling her up for the "surge" in Iraq.

Amnesty International calls the whole business a "show trial", no doubt trying to invoke memories of Stalin's show trials conducted by military marionettes in judge's robes. But colonel Kohlmann, impressively dressed in a black judicial robe, methodically rejected Hicks' every complaint. The colonel, who had assigned himself the case, "rejected each assertion that he was acting arbitrarily or was biased."

What a relief. Otherwise, as Carol Rosenberg points out, the Bush administration couldn't claim that it has "won its first victory in the first completed U.S. war-crimes trial since World War II."

What a victory! Every American can feel proud to have been a part of this exercise in democracy's rule of law.
(March 28, 2007)

Law professor Jack Balkin thinks this will be the end results of Hicks' plea bargain: (1) He will be quickly transferred into Australian hands; (2) Australian courts will set him free "
via a legal process based on shared English common law traditions;" and (3) Hicks nevertheless may well file and pursue a claim all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to erase the conviction. What's more, "in the longer run" Hick's abortive hearing "should produce even greater pressures, both at home and abroad, to terminate these tribunals entirely. Although the confused proceedings lasted only a few hours, that was enough to establish that changes mandated by the Military Commission Act of 2006 (MCA) are insufficient to produce the 'full and fair' trials promised by the President when launching this process a half-decade ago. "


OzAmerican said...


[as we say in the land of oz ... American permanent resident since 1974 ... ]

[and borned in the state of Florida :-) ]

'Shabby' truly describes it. Here, I see the whole spectrum from "give him a fair trial and hang him in the morning", somewhat reminscent of old-Texas justice -- to some who actually understand the proper use of rule of law.

Too bad Bush & the Corrpution Gang forgot that a long time ago. If they ever knew it.

Ledgerman said...

Not to mention the Bush Congress changed the rules last fall while eliminating habeas corpus. Democracy will end soon, while the public is out shopping at Walmart.