Conviction lost, for good?

Just a quick thought on the whole mess by Carla Martin, but you might want to read Tamper-Proof – Carla Martin’s witness tampering wasn’t rare, just sloppy. By David Feige at Slate.com first.

Done reading? Good deal. I know that there is as much strategy in the court system as in any match of chess or battle of actual armies, and anyone with half a brain or more knows this. Hell, considering Law & Order, SVU, Criminal Intent and even Conviction (which I’m liking quite a bit, mind you) we should all have a pretty decent handle on what goes on in our courts. I will admit wishful thinking is involved when pointing to fictional television shows as an example of ‘reality and truth’, but then you’ll have to admit that ‘reality and truth’ hasn’t been seen in any form for so long as to be listed with the Dodo as extinct – at least as far as this case is concerned.

So after all is said and done, what has Carla Martin really done? Perhaps more than you know. And, more importantly, perhaps more good than harm.

Her ‘mistakes’ seem to me just bizarre. She did things that no prosecutor has ever done and not been caught. Not ever. She left obvious trails that forced the hand of the prosecution into the admission. She deliberately disobeyed a judges order, created havoc and confusion for a huge team of prosecutors and has ended her own career. All with two meetings and four emails, or thereabouts. No matter whatever else she might be, she’s damn efficient.

In committing these acts she derailed a farcical trial that, for well over four years, has done nothing but reduce the United States’ ethical standing by eroding the foundation of our legal system to but wisps of air, while simultaneously replacing said foundation with the insanity normally reserved for dictatorships. The trial of Moussaoui was quickly damning every American citizen as it reduced our rights as citizens, flipped the burden of proof from the prosecution to the defense, removed the guarantees of the Constitution and slowly eroded any and all hope that justice would be served.

You must realize that this trial was a facade erected to hide the fact that we couldn’t get even with the 9/11 hijackers. This trial was cobbled together from anger and fear and the manic need to show that the Justice Department was “doing something” by a (mad)man (who lost his senatorial re-election campaign to a corpse). Moussaoui is a nobody, and there isn’t any reasonable way to prosecute him as “the 20th hijacker” when all the evidence points away from him. He’s not the guy, folks, he’s just not. But the Justice Department and the entire Executive Branch of our government has said he is, he’ll pay, and a righteous smiting shall commence upon the reading of the verdict – Guilty! Yeah, that’s a group that could back down easily. Right. To be fair (I can hear my mom quipping, “why start now?”) the press is also to blame for this, but the PR surrounding this case wouldn’t let it just disappear.

Even if you don’t accept the aforementioned concept as fact, the facts of the day are, the trial keeps going forward, the mess keeps piling up, and, nothing is going right – for the government. The more evidence that comes to light, the less likely Moussaoui is the guy. The longer the case drags on, the more times the Justice Department will have to spout the party line that this is a case that is needed and that we will win. The louder the maniac defendant screams while in court, the more everyone is, quite rightly, embarrassed to have ever thought this moron capable of tying his own shoelaces, much less assisting with the hijacking. It all just needs to go away. But how?

There were few choices left. Do “we” (the grand, all of the USA ‘we’):

  • drop the case? No. We can’t. Were the prosecution to do so, they’d be admitting that the Justice Department doesn’t have a clue and hasn’t done a thing to make us more safe from terrorists. Not an option, not when the Justice Department is core to the leading 3rd of our government.
  • finagle a mistrial? Nope. What good would it do to have to start this mess all over? It’d be worse, if only because it’d waste at least another 4-plus years.
  • kill the defense? HA! Wishful, but it’d have the same effect as if he’d been acquitted because ‘he got away’ despite our government. (Keep this in mind, please.)

What’s a government prosecutor to do?

Sometimes you do what is right and what is necessary. Sometimes you break the law to do so. Sometimes doing what is right and necessary requires you to look stupid and foolish. Sometimes you have to suck it up, because there is no other way.

The Impossible Solution.

Find a way to make the trial go away without having to drop the charges. For all the Star-Trek fans out there, this is the test that Captain Kirk was faced with, the one he cheated. When faced with two options that both suck eggs, create a third option by changing the rules.

Well, when you throw out the constraints of what can and can’t be done, you get one solution, and Carla Martin, perhaps unwittingly (although, really, a high-power attorney in government with years of experience and scads of support doesn’t make the mistakes of a rookie) implemented it. Make such a HUGE blunder that absolutely no one can find a way around the judge just throwing the whole thing out and being done with it. The charges don’t have to be refiled, the case need never rear it’s ugly head again, and, more importantly, the Justice Department gets to point to a flunky and say “we’d have gotten him if it weren’t for her!” (and then pout, cross it’s arms, stamp it’s feet, and kick the dirt like any petulant child, perhaps).

By making it a procedural faux pas it taints the entire case in many and various ways, which is necessary to destroying the case. Had it been a mere evidentiary blunder, i.e. something stupid like “we mislabeled a box” or “we lost his shoes” it’d be lost evidence and more chance that he’d be acquitted and the Justice Department looks to be a ship of fools. The best that could arise from that sort of mistake would be a mistrial, which puts everything back at square one. No one really wants to be at square one. Square one just means starting this merry-go-loony all over again.

The entire case, from evidence to witnesses to statements to even the lawyers involved (at least one of them) had to be tainted, so this case could go away. With that level of taint the charges can’t realistically be refiled, the case won’t rear it’s ugly head again, and, more importantly, the Justice Department gets to point to a flunky and say “we’d have gotten him if it weren’t for her!” (And then pout, cross it’s arms, stamp it’s feet, and kick the dirt like any petulant child, perhaps, but I would never say something that snarky.)

Remember what I asked you to remember? The bit about him dying not being viable because he’d have gotten away despite all we could do? Now’s where it makes sense. You see, once the case is tainted by a person who can, and will, be charged with the blunder, Moussaoui gets away not despite our system, but because of our system. Our system of justice works, and the procedures and rules in place protect the innocent, as all are assumed to be, even to the point of letting a guilty party go free. Something about “tis better that ten guilty men go free than one innocent be imprisoned” or some such. Whatever the sentiment, the result is tangible proof that our legal system works as we’ve always said it does.

Carla Martin didn’t make a mistake, she fixed the unfixable. She’ll still pay for it.

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