Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Jose Padilla to finally get his day in court?

It's amazing how time and distance muffles emotion. I remember being furious at the way our government was holding Jose Padilla without charges, violating fundamental rights of due process that citizens have come to expect since the signing of hte Magna Carta.

But my fury at the Bush administration seems spent, my mind is so boggled by their criminality and rank stupidity, that depriving Jose Padilla of his constitutional rights seems like a minor footnote in a long list of crimes.

But it appears that Jose Padilla will finally get his day in court.
Five years after his initial arrest, Padilla's criminal trial appears finally destined to actually take place, with jury selection concluding today and opening arguments scheduled to begin next Monday, May 14. The beginning of Padilla's criminal trial and the coincident anniversary leave me to wonder just how significant this trial actually will be, the ultimate result notwithstanding...

[T]here are two points that I think bear mentioning, even if together they may be somewhat irreconcilable.

1. It's remarkable, in its own right, that the trial is actually happening--that Padilla got what, in effect, he had sought from the get-go, i.e., a meaningful day in court.

2. It's a troubling reflection upon the law "after 9/11" that it's taken five years to get to this point, without any final and determinative resolution of the merits of Padilla's military detention, and with the almost summary rejection of the argument that such a delay violates Padilla's right to a speedy trial. If Padilla is ultimately convicted, one could see this case as setting a dangerous precedent for the future, where the government can hold terrorism suspects in military custody up until the point that a court is set to rule on the merits of such detention, and then moot such a decision by indicting the individual in a civilian criminal court. [It is this reality against which Justice Kennedy was arguably inveighing in his opinion respecting the denial of certiorari in Padilla last January.]

Ultimately, I'm not sure these points are in as much tension as they might seem to be. The system is working the way it's supposed to; it just took the better part of five years to get there, and much will turn on the extent to which this case becomes precedent over the next five years.|Concurring Opinions: Five Years On... How Significant is Padilla?|

So here's a toast to the men and women who have fought the long fight to ensure that the right of habeaus corpus lives and that Americans can once again rely on their right to stand before a judge and have their alleged crimes declared in open court.

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