Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Why you want a jury of "your peers"

This week the federal government won one of its "terrorism" prosecutions. That's news, since despite a lot of noise, many much heralded trials have not led to much result, for example, that of Holy Land Foundation. But last week the government won one.

... three men [of Middle Eastern origin] were found guilty of conspiracy to defraud the United States and of a scheme to conceal the true origins of the nonprofit charity, Massachusetts Care International Inc., which operated from 1993 to 2003 and collected $1.7 million in donations. ...

"This prosecution serves notice that we will not tolerate the use of charities as a means of promoting terrorism," said Kenneth L. Wainstein, assistant US attorney general for national security, in a statement released after the convictions.

He called the verdict a milestone in the government's efforts "against those who conceal their support for extremist causes behind the veil of humanitarianism."

Boston Globe

Sounds important. And probably the convicted men are at least sympathizers with aggressive Islamists.

But if you delve into the Globe's story, it comes out that the case was not so straight-forward.

In a telephone interview last night, Jean Ngarambe, of Salem, the juror who wrote [a question to the judge,] said he didn't have any bias as a result of Sept. 11, 2001, but was trying to determine whether he could consider the emotional impact on Muntasser, who was born in Libya and is a Muslim. He said he believed Muntasser's contention that he lied to the FBI in 2003 about his earlier travel to Afghanistan because in the post-9/11 world, he feared that he might be sent to the US detention camp at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

"He had a good reason to lie," said Ngarambe, who added that he would have acquitted Muntasser of lying if the judge had allowed them to consider his motivation and emotional state.

"I am satisfied about the verdict, but for Muntasser I am sorry about that," said Ngarambe. He said Muntasser had withdrawn from the conspiracy in 1996 when he quit his job at Care International and wouldn't have been convicted at all, if not for lying to the FBI in 2003. "But on the other hand the crime is there. They defrauded the IRS."

The Globe does not tell us Mr. Ngarambe's ethnic background. But clearly this juror knows something of contemporary U.S. reality that scared-silly white jurors might miss.

If only he'd been allowed to bring his experiential knowledge to bear on the case ...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How many Americans ended up in Guantanamo?

Why do you think the white jurors were "scared silly"? Did you review any of the evidence that was presented at the case?

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