Polemics & Exchanges

On the Terror of Tribunals

Dr. Samuel Francis is an outstanding scholar, and he is usually right on target, but, speaking as an attorney, I’m afraid his article “Tribunals for Terror” (Views, March) is seriously flawed.

Supporters have argued that tribunals are necessary, in part, to avoid potential intimidation of jurors.  Dr. Francis, however, believes that Timothy McVeigh and the first World Trade Center bombers were “tried without mishap” and, therefore, concludes: “There is no reason to suppose that trying Al Qaeda suspects publicly would be any more dangerous, and if such threats did appear, they could be dealt with as necessary.”  Unfortunately, there is every reason to believe that Al Qaeda is vastly more dangerous than either Mr. McVeigh or the inept World Trade Center bombers, caught when one of their number went back to Ryder to claim his security deposit.  But what does he mean when he says that such a threat can be “dealt with as necessary?”  Juror intimidation is often undetected, precisely because its purpose is to achieve an acquittal and the subsequent constitutional protection against double jeopardy.  But if it is discovered, what should be done?  Declare a mistrial and try, try again, putting ever more people at risk?  Put the judge, jury, attorneys, witnesses, et...

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