With the news today that Ahmed Ghailani was acquitted of all but one of 280 charges of conspiracy and murder in the 1998 terrorist bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, there is no doubt that a lot of people will be shocked and downright angry. The ink is not even dry on the verdict sheet yet and some already are calling this decision a massive miscarriage of justice. Get ready. This verdict will lead to a national debate on every political talk show for weeks to come. You can bet that politicians, naturally, will use this verdict to justify why trials of Gitmo detainees belong in a military court, before a military tribunal, not in civilian court. But, whatever your feeling is about the verdict, one thing stands clear: the American judicial system worked – as it works day in and day out in courtrooms all across the country.
Of course, politicians will speak candidly about this verdict in typical platitudes, but how many of them observed an iota of the actual trial. Over the course of 6 weeks, some of the government's best U.S attorneys presented evidence through witnesses, documents, videos and photographs. At all stages of the trial, massive amounts of legal submissions - such as motions, objections, and requests, were researched, filed, argued, and decided. Once the evidence was in, the jury, which was made up of 12 ordinary people from New York City - beholden to no government or political platform – engaged in over 5 days of deliberation. Like all juries are instructed, their decision was based solely on the evidence presented and the elements of the crimes charged. In the end, all 12 reached this monumental verdict.
At moments like these, I cannot help but think of the great speech by Michael Douglas in the movie “The American President,” where he says “America isn't easy, you've gotta want it bad because it's going to put up a fight. It's gonna say, you want free speech let's see you acknowledge a man who's words make your blood boil and who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs, that which you would spend a life time opposing at the top of yours.” There is no question that this verdict is a hard pill to swallow. But, isn't this exactly what makes our nation the greatest in the world? We are, and have always been, a nation of laws. No matter what the crime charged – even as large as terroristic acts and mass-murder - our judicial system, our laws and our constitutional rights must loom larger.