Friday, July 08, 2005

When I Eat (Some) Crow

Well, in my last post I wrote (among other things, and not all that clearly) that our first response to terrorist attacks should be to treat them as crimes-- by comforting the victims and bringing the perpetrators to justice.

That we shouldn't really consider that terrorists do things for acceptable reasons and try to figure out why the terrorists felt justified in murdering people.

And that we should do step one (comfort, apprehend) before we worry about whether our response will treat the perpetrators' co-religionists unfairly.

Before. Not instead of. This Legal Times piece, clearly exists to make me look stupid.

Read more below the jump.

The federal prosecutors accused Ali Al-Timimi, an American citizen and a Muslim, of providing support to terrorists.
That's not the problem. I can't give money to hitmen, he can't give money to terror groups. So says the law.

The problem is that the prosecutor argued in summation:
If you're a kafir [a non-Muslim], Timimi believes in time of war he's supposed to lie to you. Don't fall for it.

Evidently (according to the article), the prosecution's case was liberally seasoned with religious terms from Islam that the jury was hearing for the first time.
Uh, dude, you can't argue that a defendant is a liar because Muslims think they're allowed to lie.

As an aside, I'll note that the defense lawyer also complained about how the prosecutor made reference to the the testimony of a witness for the prosecution:
The witness testified that Timimi never told followers that Muslims had an obligation to wage war against the United States. In his closing, Kromberg told jurors not to believe the witness because he had also testified that he considered Shiite Muslims nonbelievers who should have their heads lopped off.

That one doesn't bother me, but provides a good contrast for the "kafir" comment. The defendant says two things that sound inconsistent. The prosecutor points that out. It's completely different from attributing generalizations about a defendant's supposed religious beliefs to argue that he's lying.

I don't know exactly where the law should draw the line here (and I'm working for a judge). There's First Amendment caselaw and the federal rules of evidence, so the correct legal answer may not necessarily be the same as what I think is appropriate intuitively.
But the prosecutors are supposed to be wearing the white hats. They should consider themselves bound by more than just the law-- even if they can get away with using this kind of evidence, they should only be using evidence that shows this defendant did these actions-- and not arguing that Muslims, or even just some Muslims, are violent liars 'cause they believe God told them it's okay.

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