Detainee Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, Pleads Not Guilty in Federal Court

After 8 years at Guantanamo, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, will now face trial in federal criminal court. At his court appearance today, he pleaded not guilty.

What comes next? A fight over who gets to represent him. The Government will be picking up the tab for whoever it is. My suggestion is the court-appointed counsel who represented the WTC1 and other terror trials.

In 1998, the Clinton Administration demonstrated an atypically aggressive response toward terrorism after the assault on two U.S. embassies in Africa. On Aug. 7, 1998, the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, were bombed by terrorists, leaving 258 people dead and more than 5,000 injured.

The result: [More...]

Four men, believed to be followers of Osama bin Laden, were convicted on May 29, 2001, for their roles in the bombing of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. The blasts killed 224 people, including 12 Americans. Some 5,000 people were injured.

Mohamed Rashed Daoud al-'Owhali, Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, Wadih al-Hage, and Mohamed Sadeek Odeh are believed to be connected with bin Laden's terrorist organization, al-Qaeda ("The Base"). Another six defendants are in custody, while at least 15 more, including bin Laden, remain at large. 13 suspects in this case, including Osama bin Laden, were placed on the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorists list on Oct. 10, 2001.

Which brings us to where we are today:

Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani will now stand trial in federal court in Manahattan for his alleged role in the al-Qaeda plan.

Federal Public Defenders should take the case, unless they have a oonflict of interest. Should they hava a conflict, a lawyer should be chosen from the ranks of CJA attorneys admitted in the Second Circuit and New York.

This is a case that will take years to wind its way through the system. Even assuming the client's family and frineds want to assist in choosing a defense counsel, that counsel will need experience in representing these kinds of cases. Having represented Timothy McVeigh pre-trial and during the guilt phase of his trial, I can tell you it takes a village of experienced lawyers.

The need and cost for experts will dwarf the lawyers' fees. When a defendant is indigent, the Court can appoint and pay lawyers, at a reduced but adequate rate, and the Government will pay not only for the lawyers, but for all expenses of expert witnesses, investigators, paralegals, translators and the like.

The prosecution spent $82 million investigating and prosecuting McVeigh and Nichols. The McVeigh team spent $15 million, a comparitive bargain.

Now that he's in criminal court, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani needs teams of experienced criminal lawyers -- one for the guilt phase, and if death is on the table, a second team for the penalty phase. They will also need assistance with the massive amounts of discovery the Government will finally disclose to them.

Whoever in New York tried the earlier cases to verdict, and came back with a sentence of less than death, should be the first picks. They have the experience and they know the ropes.

I think it's time for the military lawyers to step aside and let criminal defense lawyers take over. There are hundreds of capable, experienced defense attorneys around the country who would agree to work at the lower rate paid by the Government to defend . They would represent him with pride and dedication.

The greater the skill of the lawyers representing both Mr. Ghailani and the Government, the greater the chance that the "show trial" factor will be put on the back burner and the trial can proceed normally.

We need this trial to be a success. And by that, I mean we need for this trial to leave people with a sense that Ghailani got a fair trial, no matter what the verdict. Only if the trial is fair, can we trust in the integrity of the verdict.

The New York Times has more here.

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    I agree wholeheartedly with you (none / 0) (#1)
    by scribe on Wed Jun 10, 2009 at 06:57:56 AM EST
    but the one thing which needs to be addressed is something I read in the on-line version of the paper yesterday - the defendant has expressed a desire to have his military lawyer continue representing him.

    Speaking as a lawyer, I can see that this should not pose an obstacle, as the military lawyer can continue representing him and coordinate the work of the additional counsel who will be needed.  That is a full-time job in and of itself. It would appear there has been some level of rapport grown between the defendant and this lawyer and that is very important - remember how Moussaoui had no trust in his lawyers and wound up making a series of bad decisions, not the least of which was representing himself.

    Oh, yeah. One more thing: (none / 0) (#2)
    by scribe on Wed Jun 10, 2009 at 07:17:36 AM EST
    OMG! OMG! The government brought an accused terrist from Gitmo to the mainland United States and - OMG! - charged him in a regular, civilian, criminal court.


    Not for nothing, then, that yesterday Faux had this news way down in the agate type, below some celebrity's new haircut and similar.  What would it do to their ad revenue and viewership if it got too much coverage....

    Is there a money limit? (none / 0) (#3)
    by Saul on Wed Jun 10, 2009 at 07:34:23 AM EST
    From the government to pay the public defender?  If not then that's a pretty good deal but only if the public defender is worth it.

    Also can a defendant who cannot pay on his own pick his own lawyer and then let the government pick up the tab?

    "brings us to where we are today" (none / 0) (#4)
    by diogenes on Wed Jun 10, 2009 at 05:07:43 PM EST
    Are you implying that the "unusually aggressive response" to the terrorist act in 1998 somehow caused 9/11 and that 9/11 was the fault of the USA???

    Uh (none / 0) (#5)
    by Steve M on Wed Jun 10, 2009 at 05:29:05 PM EST
    I think it's pretty freaking obvious that the post says: first, there were the embassy bombings, and now, we have the indictment of this individual for participating in the embassy bombings.

    I haven't the faintest clue where you get some of these wild accusations you love to post.  There's not a single word about 9/11 in this entire post, for the love of God!