UPDATE: Read Glenn.
I will write more about this some other day, but I wanted to point Feministe readers to the news (in case you somehow missed it) that 9/11 terror suspects will be tried in domestic courts. This is a major step forward from the days of the Bush administration, when they were sent to Guantanamo and lived in legal limbo.
Some object to terrorists being tried in United States courts because it will afford them “the same panoply of constitutional protections as U.S. citizens during their trials.” I’m unclear on why that’s a bad thing. Federal courts have tried terrorism suspects for years now, and have done a pretty solid job — even when those suspects were afforded basic constitutional protections.
The American judicial system is imperfect, and it depends on an imperfect population to render verdicts. But I’m frankly baffled as to why anyone would think that 9/11 terrorism suspects wouldn’t be treated harshly enough by a New York jury. Believe me, the jury pool that will be pulled in the Southern District will hardly be sympathetic to these guys. And the prosecutors on this case won’t be idiots, either — we’re talking about some of the most talented and seasoned lawyers out there. I imagine that the defense attorneys will be likewise intelligent and skilled. A functional adversary system demands protections for the defendant. The Constitution, and what it affords criminal defendants, are good things. Those protections seek to ensure that even when faced with an unsympathetic jury — as will be the case here — criminal defendants are entitled to basic rights. They ensure that prosecutors do their jobs thoroughly and responsibly. They ensure that we have the fairest system possible, even when any criminal justice system is going to be flawed by its very nature.
The Bush years demonstrated the contempt with which some conservatives view the American judicial system. Liberals also criticize the American justice system, but under very different terms — we want it to be more fair and just. They just don’t think it’s good enough for the “worst” criminals. That lack of confidence is kind of terrifying — if our courts aren’t good enough to try terror suspects, why are we using them to try our own citizens? I’ve written time and again about the flaws in our judicial system (and I wouldn’t mind overhauling many of our laws, which too often lead to racist outcomes; I wouldn’t mind scrapping the death penalty, which these suspects are unfortunately facing), but the idea that we need separate courts for terror suspects because the federal courts aren’t equipped to handle them? Poppycock.
The federal courts are indeed up to the task. And it’s about time that the American public (and New Yorkers in particular) actually saw some justice for what happened on 9/11. A misdirected war in Iraq and a divisive culture war at home (with New York exemplifying All Things Bad) isn’t exactly healing the wounds.