I have issues. If youve been reading this column for any amount of time, you already know that, right Brenda?
(On a side note, I used to say Hi to my mother in these columns. Well, until I went to visit her a few weeks ago, and she asked me if I still did that column thing. Nice.)
But seriously, Ive been following the news on these terror trials for a few weeks, and I took some umbrage at what United States Attorney General, Eric Holder, stated about the whole shebang.
Essentially, Holder said something to the effect that if the mastermind of the September 11 attacks isnt convicted on the charges that would bring him either life in prison or the death penalty, the United States will find other charges that will stick, to ensure the terrorists death or life imprisonment.
Again, as a private citizen, I want to see this terrorist fry. I knew people, as most of us did, who were directly affected by the attacks. Hell, if they allow me to pull the switch, the trigger or the needle, I would gladly do any of the above with gusto. The guy should be terminated for what he did to the United States.
However, as an attorney, the statements offend me.
Regardless of the charges brought against anyone, the accused has a constitutional right to a fair trial, whether youre a citizen or an alien. The accused has a right to counsel, as well as a speedy trial (at this point, I dont know whether the requirements for a speedy trial have been met, but Ill assume they were).
But it disturbs me when the attorney general, the man that is the figurative and literal head of crime enforcement in this country stating that the accused will be put away for life. At this point, I thank my lucky stars that the judicial branch is somewhat independent.
Over the past several years, weve seen what over-zealous prosecutors have been able to accomplish. One really needs to look no further than the Duke Lacrosseplayers. An ambitious district attorney who was running for re-election decided to make this his platform issue, and came within a hair of ruining a number of kids lives. Also lost in that whole mess was the ruination of the coachs career, as well as the disintegration of relations among the students and faculty of Duke. The DA was finally found out, but the damage he caused was breathtaking.
One could also look no further than our neighbor to the north, Pennsylvania. The State Attorney General in this instance conducted an investigation into the campaign machines of both parties in the Keystone State. With much fanfare, he announced (prior to a general election) his findings against the Democrats. Of course, the AG is a Republican. Earlier this year, he announced charges against the Republicans, but with a lot less fanfare and proactive media coverage.
This is wrong.
People who abuse campaign funds, their elected offices and their employees, regardless of party, should be prosecuted to the greatest extent of the law, regardless of party affiliation. But to have the findings regarding both parties at roughly the same time, and only to announce the findings of the opposing party, calculated to inflict the maximum amount of political damage, regardless of whether justice is served is just plain wrong.
In this instance, I sincerely hope that justice will be served. That a jury, should one be empanelled, find the mastermind guilty and sentence him to death on the first shot. Without preening, grandstanding and showboating by the government. That, of course would be the best-case scenario, and one that proves, beyond a reasonable doubt, that our justice system works, and continues to be, with all of its faults, the best in the world.
However, if we continue down the course we seem to be locked in on, well convict without a completely fair trial, issues will be continuously thrown up on appeal, and the whole thing will be a complete mess. This should not happen.
We owe it to our citizens, the victims of the attack and the rest of the world to prove that the United States is a shining light in the world, and that everyone, regardless of their alleged crimes, will be treated and tried with the maximum amount of constitutional rights, as well as human dignity and respect. Only then will justice be served.
Chris Markham writes a weekly column for fredericknewspost.com.