No Good, Either Way

Carol Platt Liebau
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Posted: Nov 18, 2009 5:20 PM
An AP story reporting comments from the President highlights again -- as if more proof were needed -- why it's such a terrible idea to be trying terrorists in civilian court. 

Apparently, President Obama had this to say about the trial of Khalid Sheik Muhammed:

Obama said those offended by the legal privileges given to Muhammed 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."

Oopsie.  If I were a prosecutor, I'd be a little less than thrilled that the nation's chief law enforcement officer was insinuating that the outcome of a trial was preordained.  That's the way jury pools get tainted and terrorists are able to make a case -- a good case -- that they're not able to get a fair trial, and that the presumption of innocence isn't being applied to them.  And it's the way that terrorists who hate America can argue that the forum in which they're  being tried is nothing more than a kangaroo court.

Of course, in this case, KSM doesn't deserve the presumption of innocence (and that's why he has no business in a civilian court).  But that's what the President and the Attorney General have gifted him with, and his defense lawyers would be negligent not to try to take advantage of the President's rookie mistake.

The comment was so egregious, in fact, that the President was trying to walk it back almost immediately.  The AP report continues:

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."

And this, in a nutshell, is why his decision to offer KSM the same rights afforded to American citizens is such a terrible decision.  Which is it?  Is there a possibility that after the "prosecutors, the judge and the jury" do their work, that KSM won't be convicted?  Well, there must be -- unless the civilian trial Obama's offered KSM is nothing but a show trial with a preordained outcome.