Eating the Apple

Eve did it. Adam did it. Now it's my turn to take a bite. Why not? Hey! It's delicious.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Moussaoui Trial : Two Fundamental Flaws

I have to admit that I am confused by the Moussaoui case which is in progress as I write I have been following the news reports, i do not have transcripts of the proceedings. But it seems to me that there two fundamental problems with the case against Moussaoui.

Moussaoui has pled guilty to being a member of an Al Qaeda conspiracy to fly an airplane into the White House. To that end, he was taking flying lessons when he was arrested in August of 2001. However he has steadfastly denied prior knowledge of the September 11 plot.

The prosecution is demanding the death penalty on the theory that Moussaoui knew of the forthcoming attack. Yet, as far as I can determine, this is exactly what the prosecution has failed to prove. I do not think that the prosecution has even tried to prove this allegation. (Finding a telephone number in Moussaoui's notebook does not, in my mind, constitute proof. The accusation that Moussaoui knew of September 11, is just that, an accusation. It does not rise to the level of 'proof beyond reasonable doubt'. It doesn't come close. In my mind, the death penalty cannot be justified on the grounds that Moussaoui knew beforehand of September 11.

In addition, I sense a fundamental issue that has not been discussed in the media. The proceeding against Moussaoui is a sentencing hearing, not a trial of guilt or innocence. The purpose of a sentencing hearing is to determine punishment for the crime that a defendent has been found guilty of. But the prosecution in the Moussaoui case is asking that Moussaoui be punished for a crime that he has NOT been found guilty of. And that just violates the fundamental principles of justice.

Maybe Moussaoui did have prior knowledge of September 11. Maybe he was an accessory before the fact. Maybe he does deserve the death penalty under our laws. But we shall probably never know for sure. Most of the people who can tell us the truth died on September 11. And the few others who know are beyond the reach of our law enforcement.

The crime of September 11 does cry out for punishment. But this does not justify the shortcoming of our legal system. Justice for September 11 does not justify an injustice to Moussaoui.


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