Monday, November 16, 2009
Our Justice System
America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.
Aaron Sorkin, The American President, 1995
The last ten days has made me marvel at the brilliance, strength, and yes, generosity of the American way of government – while at the same time grow angrier at those who abuse it.
Malik Hasan Nidal, the accused gunman in the Fort Hood massacre, demands a lawyer before being interrogated. That is his legal right – and while he (allegedly) had no trouble denying the right “to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” to 13 innocent victims, in fact, Nidal hired John Galligan, a well-respected lawyer, a retired army colonel. Mr. Galligan is absolutely correct when he insists that “my goal is to ensure the defendant receives a fair trial.”
Because of course, as angry and frustrated as I am with Nidal’s actions, I know that unless our justice system can handle the very worst of those charged with heinous crimes, then we can’t ensure that anyone, especially the innocent, receives a fair trial.
But boy is it hard to keep that in mind.
And then this week, came the decision to try, in a civilian court, the masterminds of the 9/11 massacre. It is again a reflection of the majesty of our judicial system that the courtroom is but a few blocks from Ground Zero. Buildings may have shattered, but the democratic society of these United States could not be toppled.
That’s not to say that I don’t have horrific fears that Manhattan will again be targeted – but I remind myself that it’s not only physical terror that is at stake here. Mind games and targeted fear-mongering are part and parcel of the terrorist weaponry.
I haven’t made up my mind whether the administration’s rationale for trying the self-confessed mastermind of the 9/11 attack and four co-conspirators in a civilian court is correct, but I am not afraid of affording them the constitutional protections of our system. I’m not worried that our justice system is not up to the task. As President Obama said at Fort Hood, "We are a nation of laws whose commitment to justice is so enduring that we would treat a gunman and give him due process, just as surely as we will see that he pays for his crimes.”
God Bless America.
Murder Takes the Cake by Evelyn David
Murder Off the Books by Evelyn David