Yesterday, the Army psychiatrist Major Nidal Hasan, charged in the deadly 2009 Fort Hood rampage, was granted permission to defend himself in his own trial. Since that decision, I've heard a few remarks from my fellow tweeters, Facebook friends and fans, as well as listeners to my radio show calling in with their comments and those who watch me on television emailing their remarks. Here are a few:
- Forget a trial! Fry 'em! (Ah yes, just toss that Constitution out when we just "know" someone is guilty.)
- How could anyone let this man stand before those he tried to kill and cross examine them!?! The victims will just be victimized by this man again! (Although it's awful, it is his right, so sayeth the law.)
- Let him defend himself. The one that does has a fool for a client. He'll be convicted, as most are when they don't have a good legal defense, and then he'll be sentenced to death, getting what he deserves. (And opening the floodgate of appeals down the road, as well.)
- Don't let him use the courtroom to spew his militant jihadist rhetoric! It will only incite terrorists worldwide. (And bring Muslim haters further out of the closet.)
But there is a real reason Hasan should not defend himself. He is entitled to, and we should make absolutely sure he gets, the best defense possible. Now, before you start to make little dolls in my image with pins you're ready to stick through its head, read further.
The Constitution gives each and every one of us the presumption of innocence with the burden of proof being on those who prosecute us for our crimes. Yes, even Hasan, who is an Ameircan and was for years a member of our armed forces. Even with a military tribunal, we should cry out for him to get the very best defense.
The only way and only reason our system works, whether in a court of law or a tribunal in the military, is if this is done. Otherwise, this could become a mockery of the military and justice system, open numerous doors for appeals and drag out any justice for the victims (both living and dead) with regards to this massacre.
And of course, there is the victimization of the victims again. Staff Sargent Alonzo Lunsford, who was shot seven times, talked about how upset and angry he was that the judge is allowing Hasan to question the soldiers he wounded. Lunsford thinks Hasan will try to intimidate him and others through mind games: "It's a battle of wits, and he's going to lose," "I was there. I saw what this man did. I'm living proof of what he did, but I survived ... I'm not going to show any fear."
Hasan has already hinted that he would try to justify the attack, revealing for the first time his defense strategy. In the past, Hasan did not elaborate when announcing he would use a "defense of others" strategy, which requires defendants to prove they were protecting other people from imminent danger. Military experts speculated that Hasan may argue he was protecting fellow Muslims in Afghanistan because soldiers were preparing to deploy from the Texas Army post.
The Constitution also grants us a speedy trial. With Hasan defending himself and most likely pontificating his beliefs about our great nation, I fear that won't be the case.
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