The Battered Terrorist

Is Moussaoui’s bad childhood a valid defense?

In his commentary on Moussaoui’s defense team’s strategy for avoiding the death penalty, Alan M. Dershowitz casts a skeptical eye on using “demographics, socioeconomics, or history” as mitigating factors in the sentencing phase.

JohnLex7 and HLS2003 engage in a robust back-and-forth on the validity of the so-called abuse excuse, with JL7 attacking the very phrase as offensive:

Playing into the “popular” way of phrasing things is NOT a good thing for any lawyer, even as one as renowned and accomplished and famous as Alan Dershowitz. Take, for example, the phrase “the abuse excuse.” That is shorthand that prosecutors always use to denigrate the mitigation evidence that a defendant puts on in a capital case. It completely mischaracterizes a) the evidence and b) the jury’s role at this phase of the trial.

First, capital sentencing proceedings are designed to allow the jury to know everything about a defendant’s life. This is obviously going to include the bad things that the defendant did (killed the victims of this crime, and committed other crimes) and the good things that the defendant did (helping little old ladies across the street). By necessity, it is also going to include evidence of how the defendant became the person he became. No human being arrives at the point of being the defendant in a capital trial after being in a vacuum his or her whole life. To believe that the things that happen to a person when they are young don’t affect what they do when they are older is to reject reality. A favorite question of prosecutors to siblings who testify in these trials is “well, you were abused, and you didn’t kill anyone, right?” That question is inane because even siblings do not have the same brain chemistry, did not have all the same experiences, and would not necessarily react the same way to the same stimuli. The evidence is not provided to “excuse” any behavior, it is provided to give the jury a complete picture of the person who is then before them, and whose life they now control.

The second problem with the phrase is that it implies that the default penalty that the jury must start with in a capital trial is death, and the only way not to impose death is if they accept some “excuse” for the defendant’s actions. This position is completely legally incorrect. When a prosecutor tells the jury that the defendant is raising “the abuse excuse” he is telling the jury that the defendant has not presented sufficient evidence to allow you not to kill him. The burden at a capital sentencing proceeding, as in all other proceedings, is on the prosecution. By using the phrase “the abuse excuse,” prosecutors subtly shift the burden to the defendant by implying that they have to show an “excuse” for their behavior in order to avoid a death sentence.

Expanding on Dershowitz’s reasoning, HLS2003 writes:

…once you accept poor upbringing as a necessary condition, you also make it a relevant condition for prevention. This is his profiling point. Once you say that a lousy upbringing (or being an Arab, or being poor, or whatever) is a “necessary but not sufficient” condition to the commission of a heinous crime, and is thereby relevant for consideration in culpability, then you have admitted the relevance of necessary conditions as risk factors in crime.

Once you do that, the theoretical rationale against profiling collapses. (There may be prudential reasons against it that still survive, but they are much weaker). The theoretical rationale against profiling is that since being poor, or black, or Arab, or whatever is not a sufficient condition to determine anyone’s crime propensity – evidenced by the vast majority of people with those characteristics who do not commit crimes – that it should not be permitted to incur suspicion.

JohnLex7 shoots back:

Sentencing decisions are supposed to be individualized. Yes, there may be a number of people who share his same characteristics, and yes, some of those people may not have reacted the same way that Moussaoui did, and some might have. Yes, some who don’t look at the whole picture might use this evidence to stigmatize an entire sector of the population. But, the evidence of his upbringing, and yes, even the role that race played in his upbringing, is relevant to the jury’s decision whether to sentence him to death, if sentencing is truly individualized. If, as has been stated, that the death penalty is supposed to be for “the worst of the worst” how are we to know if an individual is the worst of the worst without knowing what that individual has experienced throughout life?

Read HLS2003’s response here.

mallardsballad thinks Moussaoui’s lawyers have overlooked a potentially more compelling line of defense:

To use the abuse excuse on not only a self proclaimed terrorist, but someone who is considered “the other” is not only a desperate tactic on the part of the defense attorneys, but an incompetent one…

The better argument would be, that Moussaoui wants to be a martyr. That’s all he has left. Like a lot of these terrorist losers, pride is everything to them.

Take that away from him. To him, execution is a celebrated warrior’s death, with promises of those 90 virgins or whatever childish promises were offered to him. Let him rot away in a prison, where there are obviously no female virgins to molest.

… The only satisfaction the victims families would derive from his execution is that the state could have control over exactly when that would be and maybe he suffers a little. That’s immediate gratification, but personally I’d like him to suffer a lifetime of the State’s control over almost every aspect of his life, with no redemption.

According to jacoxnet,Dershowitz badly misses the point altogether

of Zacharias Moussaoui’s defense. His lawyers are not claiming that he should be shown sympathy because he had a “bum childhood” … They are arguing – and proving, in my view – that Moussaoui is a delusional schizophrenic whose testimony is not credible. Moussoui’s experiences in childhood and young adulthood are just part of the story of the effects of serious mental illness on his life.

In my view, criticism ought to be leveled not at the defense but at the government lawyers. They know as well as the defense that Moussaoui is seriously mentally ill. But they are intentionally misusing Moussaoui’s delusions – and the resulting outrageous statements that Moussaoui has made – to try to get the jury angry enough at him to impose the death penalty. They are doing so not because Moussaoui really deserves the death penalty – clearly, he does not – but because our government wants SOMEONE to be sentenced to death for the September 11 attacks and Moussaoui is all they have.

Finally, Arlington2 asks a more sociological question:

Why not explore what type of people are recruited by extremist movements, and how they’re brainwashed into believing all people not like themselves are evil?

Terrorist organizations appear to function like cults, looking for people who are insecure and looking for “the answer.” They isolate their recruits and pound them with propaganda, making them believe outrageous things. The Hale Bopp comet will transport us to heaven. We must drink poisoned Kool Aid to save our souls. We get 81 virgins if we blow ourselves to bits.

The best defense might be to call in a couple FBI profilers to give the jury a picture of what kind of person Moussaoui really is.

Unaddressed thus far is what Dershowitz should have called the “remorse recourse”: Would Moussaoui be best served by saying sorry? Contribute your thoughts here. AC12:10pm

Thursday, April 20, 2006

In “The Gerrymander That Ate America,” Juliet Eilperin proposes a new system for drawing electoral maps. Under Eilperin’s proposal, a nonpartisan mapmaking czar, supported by a bipartisan panel of viziers, would assume complete responsibility for drawing state legislative districts. This proposition has spurred a cyber-civic debate in the Fray of uncommon creativity and depth—illustrating how important the issue of gerrymandering is to American citizens today.

Many readers find the prospect of investing so much power in one person quease-making. The best description of this concern is stated by k_chandrasekar:

Mr. Hersch’s proposal is too dangerous in my opinion for the sole reason that it vests absolute power in the hands of one man. Trusting to a man’s impartiality, incorruptibility, and resistance to inevitable pressures, both fair and foul, in such situations is probably utopian.

Where can one turn to find an honest broker in this day and age? A surprisingly popular option appears to be turning over legislative mapmaking to a computer program—”making the process purely mechanical rather than political,” as Gilker_Kimmel eloquently puts it. Fray Editor suspects, based on the Diebold example, that this would just transfer suspicion from the politicians to the programmers. rundeep nominates the common man as a neutral decision-maker, advocating that election maps be approved by referendum. In defense of the status quo, 20yearsfromnow finds politicians to be the best-suited decision-makers: “[D]espite the illogic that sometimes seems to prevail in the defining of districts, the process [is] a fine example of the art of politics and compromise that is the heart of our republic.”

Rules that would limit the potential for maps based on self-serving goals are another promising angle of approach. Several posters suggest geometry as a limiting principle. Trebuchet advocates applying a “fractal index” to see if districts are too complex. Auros4 goes furthest in developing actual language to state the rule:

Each district shall have no more than six edges. An edge shall be a continuous segment of a pre-existing, generally-acknowledged boundary, either physical (river, coastline, uninhabitable mountain ridge, numbered non-residential highway), or political (city, county, or state lines). If using political lines, these lines must have been in place for at least 20 years prior to the current redistricting effort.This rule would allow for a long snaky district if, for example, that district was captured between a mountain ridge and the coast; such a district might well represent a community of common interest, with residents at either end interacting more with each other than with residents of towns on the other side of the ridge that are closer (as the crow flies) but not actually as accessible.

A similar line of proposals focus on preserving representation of local interests. RealMassLibertarian would prohibit breaking communities across districts: “each town or city should be part of a single district if not a district itself.” seed_drill would use counties as the benchmark but also advances a proposal that would create smaller districts—adding more representatives to the House:

I believe a new representative should be added for every 500,000 people, which would both curb that issue and address the problem with districts getting too large for meaningful representation.

Heading off in the other direction, many posters advocate abolishing districts entirely. fozzy would simply create a single statewide Congressional district with proportional voting:

Geographic voting boundaries are rooted largely in a past that is, well, long past. Geographic mobility is so great, and districts now have so many voters (due to a cap on congressional seats), that their character has changed vastly. They no longer represent relatively cohesive populations.

Writing in from Switzerland, andreas offers a firsthand endorsement of such a system.

Not everyone finds fault with the maps. gaoxiaen blames the gatekeepers of the ballot—a party system with too much control over who is allowed to run at all.

Tom_Tildrum despairs that the problem of gerrymandering can ever be solved:

The reason gerrymandering is insoluble is because the goals of fairness are irremediably contradictory. […] These goals interfere with one another. Fostering competition and managing geographical compactness work against ensuring minority representation. Limiting redistricting to once a decade works against reflecting the state’s overall balance. And so on.

After surveying the discussion, Fray Editor feels optimistic that, with enough thoughtful attention and careful deliberation of this kind, some kind of acceptable solution or workable compromise should be within reach. It’s not too late to add your voice to the debate in our Politics Fray. GA … 3:40am PST

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Slate’s Easter week coverage tracks the full range of the Passion narrative, for those wishing to contemplate the Christian faith on its holiest of days. Christopher Hitchens discusses the theology of betrayal in “Judas Saves.” Rev. Chloe Breyer, an Epsicopalian minister, reflects upon the significance of the missing body of Christ in “Jesus’ Bones.” Mark Oppenheimer’s obituary of radical Yale chaplain William Sloane Coffin Jr. injects an element of Christian death, while Troy Patterson’s review of TV’s God or the Girl touches upon the struggles of Christian life. To cap matters off, Richard Wightman Fox surveys the debate about Christ’s divinity within humanity.

Religion is a perennial favorite topic among many of our readers. Our Faith-Based Fray might be a world-record contender for “most heterodox Bible study.” Evangelical atheists, secular Protestants, and pagan apologists exchange ideas in a bazaar of beliefs that would shock the stockings off any grand inquisitor.

In response to “Judas Saves,” janeR tries to make sense of the sinner’s paradox behind Jesus’ crucifixion:

The big glitch in the whole crucifixion story for me is that if anyone had acted with basic human kindness and mercy, Jesus would never have been killed. And evidently, from the Bible’s perspective, everyone would have been damned to hell for an act of goodness.

Fritz_Gerlich celebrates the disappearance of the divine in a meditation upon the anti-sacrament of Holy Saturday:

The one day of the Christian liturgical year that still has resonance for me is Holy Saturday. On this day, Catholic churches are stripped of all decoration, images are covered with purple cloth, the tabernacle on the altar is emptied and the door left standing open. There is no mass.

As a boy (an altar boy, no less), I loved Holy Saturday. For one day, I felt the church was being real. Christmas and Easter, with their predictable Technicolor® and Movietone® excesses, always underwhelmed, which is only what you should expect when people try to work themselves up on cue. But Holy Saturday almost tried to slink by unnoticed. The church turned you out—vomited you out of its mouth, one might say. Go home. Nothing to see here. Jesus is in the morgue. The apostles ran away. God hasn’t said a word. Go home. Can’t help you.

Holy Saturday, not Easter Sunday, is life as we actually live it. Triumph on cue is nothing but bad screenwriting. Living in quiet desperation is, as each of us knows quite well in the dark corners of his mind, very much the real thing. It is the most fundamental of all human competencies, for we owe our survival to it. Such joy as may penetrate from time to time does not come because you, or some mental idol of yours, or some priest, pushes a button. Joy, like the wind, bloweth as it listeth. And that very fact is a source of human despair. For it apportioneth not the same to every man. From him who hath little, even the little that he hath shall be taken away. Now there is a text for Holy Saturday.

Among many eloquent celebrations of the resurrected flesh, HLS2003’s contribution stands out:

What Breyer leaves out— perhaps indicating that her willingness to accept the miracle of the Resurrection is not complete —is the fact that Jesus is the “firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” I Cor. 15:12. Christ’s Resurrection proves to all Christ’s followers that death is not the end. Christ, by his sacrifice, has obtained victory over death itself, for himself and for those who trust him. This is the hope that Christ provides. […]

Christianity is not easy. It calls for sacrifices—giving away money, forgiving enemies, controlling lusts and appetites, spending time in worship, fellowshipping with people we may not like, being honest, not cheating in business, etc. In Paul’s day, it also meant chains and risking death. […]

The Resurrection gives proof that there is hope beyond death. Death is inevitable, and yet it is still unknown and scary. The German philosopher Franz Rosenzweig said that all religion responded to man’s anxiety in the face of death. Christ’s real, physical resurrection is the central fact of Christianity that soothes our fears by telling us that Christ defeated death. “For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a human being. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” I Cor. 15:22. What we think of as “the human condition” includes death; the Resurrection proves that Christ has changed “the human condition” for the better.

This, even more than the reasons of fellowship and forgiveness and ethical behavior cited by Breyer, is the key reason for the Resurrection’s importance. At Easter, we see Christ risen from the dead, and hear the promise that since he has risen, since his destiny has not ended with death, so too his people will rise, and their destiny does not end with death. There is no greater or more universal hope. Jesus Christ’s Resurrection allows us to say that “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” I Cor. 15:54-57.

In refreshing contrast to stereotypes of secularists, irreligious Frayster Jeff-MC is unsettled by religious-themed reality TV:

I’m not even religious, and all these religious reality shows worry me. What does it say about the state of American society that what we claim to be our most sacred and meaningful traditions are becoming public entertainment?

It seems to me that the best aspects of organized religion are the building of community, the desire to do good and make the world a better place, and the focus on internal truths and worth, instead of value based on external treasure.

Amen to that. Readers willing to trade spiritual insights should set up a stand in the Faith-Based Fray. GA … 11:30pm PST

Friday, April 14, 2006

It is perhaps a symptom of the current cultural obsession with real estate that Seth Stevenson’s Ad Report Card on Century 21’s spot of a woman cajoling her reluctant husband into the purchase of a new home (aka “the Nasty Wife Ad“) generated the most prolific output that FrayEditor05 has seen in his tenure.

A lot of the commentary focused on the gender roles and stereotypes depicted in this fictional scenario. gracey_newstead criticizes the dark and offensive tone, particularly its portrayal of “a nagging wife and ball-busting real estate agent.” BrandiB makes a bizarre but impassioned plea to preserve masculinity in American culture against the “power-female” ideology typified by the husband-wife exchange. Mimi5 wonders if the ad is creepy, or just comfortably realistic:

There’s a lot of tension and anxiety behind her apparent bitchiness. Her unusually unattractive (esp. for a TV commercial) presentation of her emotions is the discomfiting issue; for some this colors their interpretation of the whole husband-wife conflict and the fictional marriage (ugly assertive woman = evil man basher). Maybe it hits just a little too close to home, especially for guys who’d prefer to watch a “Desperate Housewife” over someone closer to their wifely reality.

Echoing this view, Dolores thinks the gender roles are “a step back into the patirarchial 1950s“:

When I saw the Century 21 commercial, my reaction was disgust at the wife having to beg the husband to buy the house, because ultimately it was the “husband’s” decision. The realtor only served to back up the wife’s begging.

Jospry declares C21’s spot a complete flop: “It flattered no one. The wife comes off as a nagging shrew. The husband looks like a wimp and the realtor, ugh!—what a greedy bottom feeder! No one will be able to identify with anyone in this commercial because they will not want to see themselves as any of these horrible steriotypes.

On the opposite end of the opinion spectrum, bottomsup is the rare defender, rating the commercial “one of the better ones from this company“:

If you put yourself in the characters shoes you’ll probably come off the same way the way the wife did. It was a real Ad, pertaining to real life choices and that’s what advertising is all about. If you think about it, they did exactly what they intended to. They got our attention because if they didn’t we wouldn’t be on this forum talking about it.

perkybabette connects the general aversion to this ad to a broader phenomenon of “real estate agent bashing” which has “gone too far.” (Presumably, she is referring to Sirocco1’s lengthy diatribe.) Read her defense here. In this adjacent post, originalalaskadaisy also fights back against anti-realtor sentiment. As “a Licensed Real Estate Appraiser who also has Sales License,” joeymush has a thing or two to say about the article’s misrepresentations of the agent’s role.

As further anecdotal evidence of the ad’s attention-grabbing appeal, lsparksmith admits that the ad has literally become a subject of debate at her family Sunday dinner. Her intelligent take on the emotional dynamic between husband and wife is worth reading, as are the many other provocative posts in Ad Report Card not featured here. AC5:41pm

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Here at Slate, how meta can we get? With readers commenting on Ben Yagoda’s criticism of Michiko Kakutani’s criticism, we might safely call this a case of journalistic mise-en-abyme.

candoxx belittles the entire feud as the exercise of “little narcissists” who “try to involve the public in their personal little wars.” In an extended rebuttal to Yagoda, MarkEHaag declares, Down with cry babies! If nothing else, pgioia is impressed with Kakutani’s ample vocabulary, whilst Splendid_IREny accuses her of Anglophilia in her word choice.

For his part, Ted_Burke concurs in finding Kakutani’s style mechanical, rote, and joyless:

Michiko Kakutani reviews books like the smartest kid for a junior college bi-weekly student newspaper, which is to say that her insights, her scorn, her depth of field would be amazing for an eighteen year old in any decade.

This, of course, sets up those who continue to read her to have expectations that she will someday come into her own and develop the qualities one desires in a critic–real passion, a lively, unstrained prose style reflective of a personality that wants to talk to you, and, if it’s not asking too much, insights, conclusions and judgments that break away from the clichés and tropes that often, too often pass for commentary.

This blossoming is not forthcoming for Kakutani, who remains an extremely
ordinary reviewer of other people’s work. She does not sound as if she cares about the books she’s tasked with giving an opinion on, and there is mechanical movement to her columns, a method she’s seemingly developed in order to dispatch her obligations as soon as possible.

Pauline Kael cared about the movies she wrote about, and though she faltered toward career’s end with messy pronouncements and idol worship, at her best she convinced you that movies were importand and had you talking about the issues she’s raised. Kakutani
just makes you wonder again and again how any reviewer could make reading books or writing reviews about them seem like such a joyless way to spend one’s time.

Against the tide of Kakutani critics, Yankelwich steps up to defend her “ one overwhelming strength“:

She has aggressive, ambitious, important taste and she is honest about it. I read all of Kakutani’s reviews and when she gives a “thumbs up” review to a book, she’s almost always right about it. This is incredibly valuable, particularly with first time writers. I never would have read A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, White Teeth, or Jarhead but for her reviews and I suspect a lot of other people wouldn’t have either.

In a time when book reviews are frequently either timid, bland and “appropriate” mixtures of praise and blame or barely veiled personal attacks, Kakutani’s voice stands apart.

Arlington2 gives us a refresher course on the point of criticism itself:

Critics seem to forget why they examine the work of others. It’s supposed to be to give the potential reader (whom I visualize as an innocent, pre-teen version of the Michelin Man, whose name is “Bib,” by the way) an idea of why he might or might not like a particular book.

Instead, we get absolute judgments, as if hurling adjectives in support of a personal opinion is a courageous act…

What the critic really owes us is reasoned evidence of why we should or should not read the book. That’s a lot more difficult than using big words and obscure references to let us know the critic is smarter than we are. It involves the ability to empathise with the reader, rather than preach to her. Most critics are not up to the task because, let’s face it, they’re not such terrific writers themselves. Maybe they’re not such terrific human beings, either.

If you want to judge for yourself and go directly to the source of the controversy, check out this page from the NYT listing her recent reviews. AC1:29pm

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Fred Kaplan scratches his head over reports of a forming war plan at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Kaplan asks, “is this for real?”

Discussion of that question has barely begun in earnest, but several Fraysters have already weighed in with important questions of their own. Beating Kaplan by a couple of hours, Fritz_Gerlich asks, if America were truly planning a nuclear first-strike against a non-nuclear power, “what is a citizen’s duty in such a circumstance?” The only question JLF sees is “when?” Those caring to place a wager on the likely start date of any coming war with Iran should join his thread.

Early sentiment isn’t overwhelmingly set against the possibility. Richvidaurri wonders aloud, “what exactly is wrong with nukes? … They work, and as such, are no more “inhumane” than any other weapon (by the way folks, what does a humane weapon look like?)”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, hitchfan catches a whiff of rose petals in the prospect:

We’re in for the fight of our lives. Bluff, disinformation or a real option, if this insane [Iranian] President or the leaders around him in Tehran don’t get with it and join the civilised Planet of iPods and higher enlightenment and back off, then preemption it will be. In the aftermath, the people of Iran and not the mullahs, will take charge, throw the mullahs out, and start a civilised dialogue with the West.

What’s not to like here?

Important questions, all. Readers are encouraged—no, requested—to share their tentative answers in the War Stories Fray. GA9:15pm PST

Saturday, April 8, 2006

Frayster reactions were strong and swift to Dahlia Lithwick’s lament  over the consequences of Moussaoui’s latest act of self-perjury in the 9/11 conspiracy case.

TheRanger indictsLithwick here for her perceived inconsistency on the question of Moussaoui’s truthfulness:

When Moussaoui first came into the news, liberals haled him as the Diogenes of the 21st century. Moussaoui unmasked the ineptitude of the FBI when they did not react to the information connected with Moussaoui. Of course that was then, when libs were trying to blame Bush for 9/11 and the only thing they had was a brief which said OSB might want to attack federal buildings with airplanes. Then Moussaoui was a fountain of truth which provided all the necessary information to have prevented 9/11. All Bush had to do was connect the dots. Moussaoui was succefully pulling apart the government’s case as Dahlia proclaimed here.


This is now; when 9/11 being Bush’s fault only sold Michael Moore. Now Moussaoui is a crackpot delusional who was clueless about 9/11 and had no part in it and no details. Bush/adminstration is using Moussaoui as a scape goat because they could not capture OSB because of their ineptitude. When Moussaoui speaks now it is all lies and untruths of a wannabe with a death wish who is engineering his own demise. The dots are now non-existant.

HLS2003 sees in Lithwick’s analysis a similar about-face:

In her reporting for the past year or more, Dahlia has consistently beat the drum of civil libertarians who want to see accused suspects in the so-called “War on Terror” tried in normal criminal courts with the trappings of due process. “Give the man a trial, don’t keep him locked up indefinitely.” “If you have a case, present it to a judge and jury. If you don’t, then give it up.” “Put up or shut up – if he’s not just a patsy, then try him.”

Now, Moussaoui has been tried in a federal criminal court. He testified in open court about his activities. A jury found him guilty, and also found him eligible for the death penalty, in conformity with Blakely. Due process was admittedly slow in coming, but it did eventually come. Moussaoui was not forced to testify against himself, he had an opportunity to challenge the evidence against him, he had lawyers who were appointed for him that (despite Moussaoui’s best efforts) tried to represent his interests.

Now what does Dahlia say? Due process is not enough. Moussaoui’s testimony cannot be believed (since it is contrary to Dahlia’s preconceived beliefs). The jury found the wrong person credible. The system that would “allow” Moussaoui to be sentenced to death is a system crazed and thirsty for revenge without reason.

Obviously, sometimes the legal process reaches the wrong conclusion. Maybe it did here; I don’t know, I wasn’t on the jury that heard the evidence (as Dahlia no doubt was, based on her confident assertions of fact). But I can’t help noting the irony that, having finally gotten what she wanted – a trial for Moussaoui with plenty of process protections – Dahlia still isn’t satisfied. Is it any wonder that people begin to suspect she isn’t really dispassionately interested in “civil liberties” and “process protections” as much as she simply wants any result that is contrary to the government?

TheSFDuke calls the Moussaoui spectacle a new low in American jurisprudence:

Zacarias Moussaoui got exactly what he wanted. It was so obvious that he was lying on the witness stand even I who did not attend the trial could tell just by the excerpts of the testimony that was reported in the news. The prosecution in their zeal to prosecute anyone for the debacle of 9/11 put up the weakest case I have ever seen.

It was obvious that Moussaoui was not totally trustworthy and incompetent. Even his testimony proved that. The prosecution didn’t have a case before he testified; and they didn’t have one after he did. The only thing the testimony of the defendant did was prove that he wanted to be a martyr and be remembered for something his sick mind was proud of.

The jury bought it only because they wanted to kill someone for 9/11, and Zacarias Moussaoui was the only one they were given. It is a black day in our legal system, and our political system that has allowed incompetence to sink to a new level.

Similarly, Frozen-Pie-Crust worries that

…our criminal justice system has made the mistake of giving a former Al-Qaeda operative exactly what he wanted. Moussaoui is going to be hailed as a martyr in every screwed-up, hopeless, and seething Muslim housing project in Europe. In killing him, we fulfill his wishes as well as those of militant, fundamentalist Muslims worldwide. It’s the last in a long string of impulsive, stupid acts on our part that have played right into the hands of these psychos.

In her assessment of the defendant’s likely fate, marylb strikes a tone of resignation:

The ruling told the story of a choice of what bad guy to believe and they went with Zacarias Moussaoui. Dahlia Lithwick goes with the theory based on logic that Moussaoui grew himself into the position of star player by puffing up his role in a badly lacking trial against him. It is hard to argue against given the evidence (or lack of evidence) so Lithwick’s bottom line of “How lucky for Moussaoui that his fantasies and ours are such a perfect match” is the sad ending. Timothy McVeigh rushed headlong into his death penalty so now we add Moussaoui rushing by proxy. If Moussaoui sticks with this, there will be no court in the land that can or will help him on appeal. It just is.

Piney characterizes a would-be capital sentence as “suicide by jury“:

We’ve had examples of “suicide by cop” before - cases where misfits have provoked police officers into killing them (like by displaying fake weapons) - but this will be the first time some nut commits suicide by jury. Since the administration went forum shopping for one of the venues most likely to impose a death penalty Moussoui will no doubt get his wish for immortality. How much nicer it would be to think of him rotting away into obscurity with no virgins to comfort him through eternity. Oh well, another Bush “win”. Meanwhile, Bush will have his template for stopping the next attack - just wait for one of the conspirators to come forward and confess. Good plan.

Jurisprudence has been a hotbed of good pieces this week. Be sure to check out Bruce Ackerman’s article  on the Padilla enemy-combatant case, as well as Radley Balko’s analysis of Fourth Amendment issues here. AC9:05am PST