If you haven’t already heard, Ahmed Ghailani, accused of plotting with an al-Qaeda cell to kill US citizens in the attacks on the embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, which killed 224 people, including 12 Americans, was acquitted on all but one of the charges yesterday by a civilian court in New York. This from The Telegraph’s Jon Swaine.
In a blow to the Obama administration, Ahmed Ghailani, a 36-year-old Tanzanian, was on Wednesday night cleared by a jury in New York of 276 counts of murder and attempted murder and five counts of conspiracy.
He was convicted of just one charge of conspiring to damage or destroy American property with an explosive device, but still faces at least 20 years in prison.
Ghailani had been accused of plotting with an al-Qaeda cell to kill US citizens in the attacks on the embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, which killed 224 people, including 12 Americans.
A spokesman said the Department of Justice was “pleased that Ahmed Ghailani now faces a minimum of 20 years in prison and a potential life sentence for his role in the embassy bombings.”
However the verdict was viewed as a setback to the plan by Barack Obama, the US President, to try alleged terrorists, including the self-proclaimed ringleader of the 9/11 attacks, in civilian courts…
While his lawyer, Peter Quijano, might view this as a legal triumph, many Americans, especially the victims’ families, view this as an example of how inadequate civilian courts are to try terrorists. This also appears not be the verdict of a “courageous jury,” but one deadlocked because of a single holdout who refused to follow the rest of the jury and convict Ghailani on all charges. This from talk radio host and Townhall.com columnist Hugh Hewitt.
An email from an individual very experienced in federal criminal proceedings comments:
This smells like a compromise verdict to me. On Monday you had the report that a juror asked to be excused, claiming she was the lone holdout and she feared continuing verbal assaults on her by the other jurors for refusing to agree with them.
I suspect the 11 jurors wanted to convict on all counts, and this one juror refused.
In order to reach a verdict, the 11 jurors agreed to join her in acquitting him on all counts but one, in exchange for her agreeing to convict him on the one count — which sounds the least serious based on its description in the indictment.
But, the potential sentence for that count is a minimum of 20 years and a maximum of life. Its up to the district judge to determine how much time he will give him, and the judge can consider all the evidence at trial, including the evidence on the acquitted counts.
To take those counts into consideration in determining what sentence to impose, the judge is only required to find by a preponderance of evidence that the defendant was involved in the criminal conduct for which he was acquitted. He’s not being punished for the acquitted conduct, rather, that conduct is to inform the judge about the nature of the defendant’s character.
I expect the judge will give him life when all is said and done.
It doesn’t surprise me that one juror, unable to let go social and political biases, couldn’t vote to convict this terrorist, despite the overwhelming evidence against him. This verdict does seem more symbolic then anything else as the one charge that Ghailani was found guilty on could put him away for the rest of his life. Charles Krauthammer pointed this out last night on Fox News with Bret Baier.
Seeing that the judge had to explain what was meant by being involved in a conspiracy, it is clear that this jury, or at least this single juror, wasn’t capable of realizing the implication of a conviction on this charge alone. As Krauthammer pointed out, if Ghailani’s defense is that he didn’t know he was involved, and that is found to be false, how could you then find him not guilty of being part of the conspiracy he was part of? This highlights one of the many problems with civilian courts for trying terrorists.
This isn’t simply a blow to Barack Obama and Eric Holder’s desire to try other terrorists in civilian courts, but it is a blow to the credibility of both men. As Hot Air’s Allahpundit points out, this fiasco will most likely put an end to this push for further civilian trials. Not only were there problems bringing certain evidence to trial, which is partly to blame for this fiasco, but then you have political fallout if a high-ranking al-Qaeda member like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) is brought to trial and found not guilty because of a small technicality or, as it seems in this case, a single juror unwilling to bring themselves to vote for a conviction. Return to what Krauthammer said last night of Fox News, this verdict demonstrates the incompetence of the Obama administration which decided that civilian trials would be preferable to trying these terrorists in military courts. While there are those in this administration and the media which will either tout this verdict as a success or blame former President George W. Bush for its failure, as Doug Powers pointed out, this trial and the resulting fiasco could have been avoided.
It is clear now that this course of action was a failure, and while this will most likely prevent other civilian trials, it demonstrates that there is a problem at the Department of Justice (DOJ) with Eric Holder. Aside from Hugh Hewitt, many others, including Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey, are saying that it is time for him to step down. It is his incompetence, his and Obama’s desire to grant this terrorist a civilian trial, which has created this fiasco. As Morrissey points out, at the least, Ghailani will be serving twenty years, minus time already served, for the murder of over two hundred people which he himself confessed to. The Obama administration cannot allow this verdict to stand without taking a serious political damage, so it is either has to throw out the conviction and hold Ghailani indefinitely, which they are expected to do with KSM, or hold him and let this next administration make the decision. Either way, Holder’s incompetence on this will most likely cost him his position at the DOJ.
To think that it took one juror to do what no amount of conservative bloggers could, halt Barack Obama’s agenda and bring down Eric Holder. This decision would almost be something to celebrate if not for the fact that Ahmed Ghailani, a man responsible for the deaths of over two hundred people, was acquitted of most of the charges against him.
UPDATE: Alex Fitzsimmons at NewsBusters.org is reporting on Cenk Ugyur’s opinion on the Ahmed Ghailani verdict. While anchoring for MSNBC today, the host of ‘The Young Turks’ said that “our justice system worked” because “We just gave this guy, who we believe helped to kill 224 people, a fair trial.” He then goes on to cite the Nuremberg Trials, a series of military tribunals as an example of “fair” civilian trials. Aside from being historically ignorant, Uygur demonstrated, as Fitzsimmons stated, his warped view of reality. I doubt Sue Bartley, who’s husband and son were killed in the 1998 United States embassy bombing in Kenya, shares his belief that Ghailani’s verdict is something to be celebrated.