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Show Trials


The term show trial is a pejorative description of a type of highly public trial. The term was first recorded in the 1930s. There is a strong connotation that the judicial authorities have already determined the guilt of the defendant and that the actual trial has as its only goal to present the accusation and the verdict to the public as an impressive example and as a warning.

From Wikipedia.

Attorney General Eric Holder decided to try several terrorists in criminal court … in New York City. At the scene of the crime, as it were.

This decision led to a large rally in opposition this past weekend, as chronicled in the FrumForum:

The growing public outrage over Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to try the 9/11 plotters in a civilian court was on full display this past weekend in New York City. A rally organized by 9/11 Never Forget drew a large crowd of protesters and a list of high-profile speakers to Foley Square, the heart of the federal government’s court system in Manhattan. Cold temperatures and driving rain did not deter those assembled from letting it be known that no good can come from Holder’s plan to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammad in federal court.

Despite the fact that the long-standing tradition of trying war criminals in military tribunals, and the Congress’ work in formulating tribunal procedures that passed constitutional muster, Holder expressed the view that trying the mastermind of the largest attack on a civilian population would somehow show the world how noble we are.

But a recurring theme of the political leaders is that the trials could not possibly result in an acquittal for the defendants, so “don’t worry” about that. Republicans and Democrats have echoed this view, including Senator Lindsay Graham in the first 25 seconds of this video, with Holder’s agreement:

The U.S. legal system purports to offer “blind justice”, complete with robust constitutional rights to protect the accused. These trials violate at least two of the principles underlying that goal.

It is unthinkable that the accused would be forced to stand trial in the emotional center of the crime. An inflamed jury does not reach a fair and impartial decision. An attorney that doesn’t promptly ask for a change of venue from “the scene of the crime” provides grounds for an appeal.

It will be hard finding an impartial jury anywhere in the US, but nearly impossible in New York City. Moving the trial to another large city, with the necessary security apparatus already in place, is a must.

But its unlikely that this very basic legal protection will be afforded these defendants. One of the stated purposes is to hold the trial at the scene of the crime, and defense attorneys, wishing for the most publicity they can garner for their own self-aggrandizement, will short change the rights of the accused.

Even if the trial is held in, say Chicago, the most serious problem still exists: we do not pre-judge the outcome of trials. While prosecutors often state their confidence in their cases, the mayor, governor or, even our dear President, should not:

In one of a series of TV interviews during his trip to Asia, Mr. Obama said those offended by the legal privileges given to Mohammed by virtue of getting a civilian trial rather than a military tribunal won’t find it “offensive at all when he’s convicted and when the death penalty is applied to him.”

Mr. Obama quickly added that he did not mean to suggest he was prejudging the outcome of Mohammed’s trial. “I’m not going to be in that courtroom,” he said. “That’s the job of the prosecutors, the judge and the jury.”

President Obama, as quoted by CBS News.

Despite his legendary quick thinking, evidenced here by the President immediately trying to wipe the doo-doo from his shoe, his administration’s plan is revealed: the fix is in.

Holder has already told us the outcome of the trial regardless of the verdict: if found not guilty, we will detain and try the defendants as enemy combatants.

And that will show the world how fair we are?

Cross posted to