According to news reports, the murder trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will not be televised. That’s fine with me. Televising trials is usually a bad idea, and converts the whole thing into a circus. As long as members of the public can observe, and the transcript is available, that seems like plenty to me. There’s a reason why trials take place in courtrooms instead of stadiums, and that’s because they’re not supposed to be public spectacles.
As you may recall, the trial of KSM was initially going to occur in a civilian court in NYC. But last year, President Obama ordered the thing moved to a military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. A trial in NYC was going to be expensive, NYC would become gridlocked, civilian judges might be more lenient than military courts, and Obama was worried that Romney would beat him up over this issue. But Obama should have stuck up for the Constitution, which in my opinion sounds pretty clear:
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….
Absent some real military necessity, I don’t see any need to circumvent this provision. The idea that NYC would be gridlocked or bankrupted by the trial doesn’t wash. Here’s a quote from the website of the Southern District of New York:
Welcome to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. This Federal Court has jurisdiction over and summons jurors from the counties of New York, Bronx, Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Orange, Dutchess, and Sullivan. The Court for the Southern District of New York hears cases in Manhattan, White Plains, and Middletown, New York.
In other words, the SDNY is huge, so it seems like the Constitution could arguably be satisfied by having the trial in lots of places besides NYC.
I’m as concerned as anybody about activist judges who could make up all kinds of trial requirements that are inconsistent with federal statutes and with the Constitution itself, but the solution to that problem is not to join in trashing the Constitution. Attorney General Holder has continued to say that he could get a conviction in New York before a civilian court, without jeopardizing any military operations or secrets. So, Holder shouldn’t have caved to the White House on the issue.
Keeping Guantanamo open is fine with me. But I don’t see the problem with flying KSM to the mainland for a couple days so he can get a speedy trial before a jury of bitter New Yorkers. I’d love to see SCOTUS try to let KSM off on some judge-made technicality, and see how the American people react to that.