In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.
The Supreme Court this week refused to interfere with the prosecution of Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person charged in connection to the 9-11 attacks. The court’s rebuff of Moussaoui’s appeal remands his case to 4th Circuit Court of Appeals and deprives him of his 6th amendment rights. When Moussaoui’s case resumes, he will be barred from his fundamental right "for obtaining witnesses in his favor"; a right that could very well acquit him of the crimes for which he is being prosecuted. Once again, the Bill of Rights is being savaged in full view of the American public without a whimper of dissent. And once again, the Supreme Court is eviscerating basic Constitutional protections in the name of national security.
Zacarias Moussaoui was arrested before 9-11 when his suspicious behavior at a flight-training school drew the attention of FBI agents in Minneapolis. He has been in solitary confinement ever since. He has never denied his connection to the 9-11 conspirators, only that he was not personally involved in the Sept attacks. It was John Ashcroft who decided that Moussaoui (who is not an American citizen) should be provided with all the protections afforded to an American citizen. He foolishly believed that the case would be a "slam-dunk" and would demonstrate the munificence of American jurisprudence.
It hasn’t turned out that way, and the Justice Dept has had to compensate for its own incompetence by battering the Constitution at every turn. For one thing, it’s doubtful that keeping a suspect in solitary confinement without bail for 4 years meets the 6th Amendment’s requirement that "the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trail". In reality, Moussaoui’s incarceration probably violates the 8th Amendment’s directive against "cruel and unusual punishment". At the very least, it makes a travesty of our purported commitment to due process.
Moussaoui maintains that terror-suspects Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi Binalshibh and Mustapha al-Hawsawi can provide testimony that will exonerate him of involvement in 9-11. The government has steadfastly refused Moussaoui’s request saying that producing the witnesses would endanger National security. Obviously, video testimony of the 3 witnesses could have been provided without any danger to national security by deleting questionable sections of the tape. Presiding Judge Lonnie Brinkema has consistently ruled that Moussaoui must have some access to the witnesses or the charges against him must be mitigated by way of compensation. The DOJ, however, has rejected Brinkema’s compromise and continues to press for the death penalty. They have offered to provide written testimony from the 3 suspects (entirely supervised by the state) that they claim will satisfy Moussaoui’s 6th Amendment rights.
Think of how absurd this is? The prosecution is asking for the right to supervise the testimony for the defense. In other words, they are asking to be trusted to honestly prepare the defense’s case. It’s complete lunacy.
The remedy denies Moussaoui of the only chance he has to acquit himself of the charges against him, which means that the trail to nothing more than a sham.
The refusal of the Supreme Court to even hear the case is a clear sign that they believe the death penalty is appropriate even though Moussaoui has been deprived of his rights.
How can any court seek the death penalty when the accused is refused witnesses for the defense?
What other defense is there? It defeats the very purpose of having a trail at all. If this is how the Bush-state (with the implicit support of the Supreme Court) chooses to interpret the Constitution, we’d be better off tossing the Bill of Rights on the burn-pile and summoning a firing squad forthwith.
The Moussaoui case is a window into the increasingly tyrannical workings of the state, that’s why it’s buried on page 14a next to the Wall-Mart ad. Even for those who follow these cases, the danger seems somehow remote. But, the facts of the case are quite real and its implications will eventually be felt by every American citizen. Personal liberty is being stomped out by a right-wing Supreme Court determined to undermine the "inalienable" rights of the people. With every ruling (or refusal) they continue to enhance the already extraordinary powers of the President.
MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He can be reached at: [email protected]