Friday, November 19, 2010

What Does Ahmed Ghailani's Conviction on 1 of 285 Charges Mean?

The case of Ahmed Ghailani's conviction on a charge of conspiracy to commit terrorism, but acquittal on 284 other charges has created a stir about President Obama's trial of Gitmo detainees in civilian court.

Some Republicans have indicated it is evidence that President Obama made the wrong decision about trying these criminals in civilian instead of military courts. They imply that Ghailani would have been convicted of more charges in a military court.

However, this does create some questions that we need to address as a society:

Do we determine the validity of a court system based on the outcome we want or the process that protects people? Remember, our court system was put in place because our founding fathers believed it was important because in a free society, people had to have the presumption of innocence and the burden of proof should be on the government. They wanted to make sure government did not have too much power to wrongfully imprison people for political outcomes. Were they talking about exactly this type of situation, where it is politically popular for convictions even if someone may be wrongfully charged?

What makes anyone thing military courts would convict at a higher rate than civilian courts? Sure, civilian courts have more rights than military courts, but in a post 9/11 world, does anyone really believe there is a civilian bias to free people charged of terrorists? The case was tried in New York City. Can anyone reasonably believe that New Yorkers have a desire to acquit terrorists? That claim is a bit outside the scope of rational thought, in this writer's opinion.

At some point, people need to move beyond emotionalism and a complete lack of rational thought, and stop buying into mindless talking points, and think about what is being said by talking heads. This may be one of those cases.

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