Yesterday, Jose Padilla was convicted of charges of conspiracy to “murder, kidnap and maim” people overseas. He faces life in prison. He did not actually commit any acts of terrorism at all, and the contention that he - a poor, uneducated man who grew up on the South Side of Chicago - provided “material support” to terrorism is laughable. Before he was even granted a trial, he was held incommunicado for three years as “enemy combatant”; during this time, he was likely tortured, psychologically and physically.
There are minor annoyances here: the way the media describe the verdict as “a victory for the Bush administration”, when it in fact demolishes their claim that (alleged) terrorists can’t be tried in civilian courts; the regurgitation of the dirty bomb accusation that was always absurd. But the main issue is this: a man, a US citizen in fact, was destroyed by the state, and precious few people were outraged by it. Why would they be? He was only a gang member, a convert to Islam, a nobody.
Padilla may well have been guilty under the incredibly lax standards needed to prove conspiracy charges (in itself, this legal construct undermines the constitution, in my opinion). But don’t we have a right to trial by a jury of our peers precisely so the law can be tempered by the people’s sense of justice? Why did not a single juror stand up and refuse to convict after a trial so obviously unjust?
Responses to “Open Thread (#17)”