More Somali Priates to Be Our "Guests" For Life

8 of the 15 men charged with piracy in the deaths of two American couples on the Quest vessel hijacked in the Gulf of Aden will plead guilty . At least one (and likely at least three) will be sentenced to life in prison.

The lawyer for one who is pleading to a mandatory life sentence says, ""My guy doesn't know who pulled the trigger....He was trying to resolve the problem." But absent the plea, the lawyer says, he could face a death penalty charge. [More...]

The FBI press release when they were indicted said:

All 14 men were charged with piracy,
which carries a mandatory penalty of life in prison. In addition, the indictment also charges them with conspiracy to commit kidnapping, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, and the use of a destructive device during a crime of violence. The latter charge carries a mandatory minimum of 30 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison, which would run consecutive to all other charges.

These crimes happened at the other end of the world. Why do we have to be the world's jailer, and spend millions of dollars to lock these young men up for life?

According to an April 27, 2010 memo from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, the monthly cost of imprisoning a federal inmate is $2,271. For a year, that's $27,000 plus change.

For a 25 year old with a life sentence, assuming they live to 65 (life expectancy can be shorter in maximum security prisons), that's 40 years times $27,000, which equals $1,080,000 -- a million dollars.

If there are 14 such defendants in a single case, and all are convicted and sentenced to life in prison, that's $14 million just to house them. It doesn't include other costs, such as their lifetime medical care while in prison.

It doesn't include the cost of prosecuting them, or the cost of providing defense attorneys and expert services to those who are indigent.

Does anyone even remotely think this will have a deterrent effect on others in lawless Somalia, where kids grow up knowing nothing besides poverty and decades of warfare? The conditions in Somalia don't excuse murder but they are factors a court ordinarily could consider in determining the length of the sentence. But since the piracy offense carries a mandatory life sentence, it makes no difference.

Not to mention, it's unlikely they would even receive a fair trial in Norfolk, Virginia, where the Government chose to fly them and try them: As one of their lawyers wrote in a brief:

(1) the charged offenses were not committed in the Eastern District of Virginia;

(2) the defendants who are Somali nationals cannot be tried by a jury of their peers in the Eastern District of Virginia because there is no sizeable population of Somalis; and

(3) the venire to be drawn from the Eastern District of Virginia will be biased and prejudiced against the defendants as a result of the extremely large proportion of active duty and retired members of the United States Navy which reside here and the heavy press coverage this case has received from the local news media.

As I wrote in that last post:

America. Prison nation. Your tax dollars at work. No money for health care, but we have billions to spend on incarceration, including tens of millions on young Somali men who never stepped foot in the U.S. until dragged here after their arrest across the world.

More on Somali pirates here and here.

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    So, if you don't want to pay the money to (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by tigercourse on Mon May 16, 2011 at 06:57:30 PM EST
    put them in prison here, what should be done? Let them go free? Send them back to lawless Somalia? Execute them?

    Sometimes justice isn't cheap.

    I don't know all the (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by JamesTX on Mon May 16, 2011 at 08:06:49 PM EST
    facts here, and the biggest problem is I am not a lawyer, so I concede that I might view it differently if I were educated in legal theory. But, if it was a United States vessel on the high seas then in my view I understand why it is our soil and our jurisdiction. It would matter to me (not necessarily to the law) if they were inside Somalia waters or on the high seas. If they were somewhere else, then they should be prosecuted wherever they were. But the open ocean in a US vessel is the same as Times Square, in the way I view it.

    The part of legal theory which I don't understand is how culpability gets spread around to all parties involved in a crime. If he didn't pull the trigger and had no control over the person who did, then I can't understand how it is the same as pulling the trigger. I do realize that it is, according to the law, which is why we see people executed here in Texas who didn't kill anybody. I don't get it. Maybe with more education I would, but it just doesn't make sense to me. This is especially true when it turns out that the shooter gets off light and the accomplice gets death, as it can and does happen. It may make sense from the standpoint of legal theory, but to me it is a delusion.

    I also don't understand how drunk drivers are murderers if they couldn't have avoided an accident, but my understanding is that they are. When you start changing the meaning of words, even if it makes for elegant theory, or leads to the desired outcome, then you break all ties with common sense and it would seem your theory would break it's ties with it's root metaphors. But, there we are.


    The drunk drivers question is easy (none / 0) (#12)
    by jbindc on Tue May 17, 2011 at 09:48:07 AM EST
    I also don't understand how drunk drivers are murderers if they couldn't have avoided an accident, but my understanding is that they are.

    This sentence makes no sense because driving drunk is ALWAYS avoidable, therefore, any "accident" resulting from impaired driving, is, by definition, avoidable.


    I understand that (none / 0) (#26)
    by JamesTX on Tue May 17, 2011 at 12:13:29 PM EST
    reasoning. Is it necessary legally for the accident to be the result of impairment? Even if it does not have to be proven, is the underlying reasoning that impairment is the assumed cause of the accident? That is, would it be relevant if the person could prove that the accident would have occurred without the impairment? Or is the reasoning simply that because the person was impaired on that day, as luck had it, and therefore refraining from driving on that day would have, per chance, eliminated the possibility of this event?

    Causal reasoning becomes very complicated when you get into who is responsible for "preventing" an event, and if the person who "failed to prevent" is a causal agent. In fact, it is precisely those scenarios which have slain the most advanced and recent definitions of causality.


    No (none / 0) (#33)
    by jbindc on Tue May 17, 2011 at 02:38:25 PM EST
    For example - Driver A, completely sober, could run a red light hitting Driver B, who is drunk. Driver A dies. In that case, Driver B would most likely not be charged with murder, but still could be charged with DUI /DWI / OWI.

    There of course, could also be lots of theories brought up in a civil suit.

    But the gist of it is, you know when you drink, you are impaired, even if you don't feel it.  You take your chances when you get behind the wheel of a car, and put everyone else on the road at greater risk.  It can be argued that you have an inherent intent to be reckless, because there is absolutley no reason or excuse to be driving drunk. So, it's hard to call something an "accident", when but/for your impairment, it wouldn't have happened.


    Thanks for answering (none / 0) (#35)
    by JamesTX on Tue May 17, 2011 at 06:18:17 PM EST
    my question:

    I also don't understand how drunk drivers are murderers if they couldn't have avoided an accident, but my understanding is that they are.

    In that case, Driver B would most likely not be charged with murder...

    Obviously you have misunderstood me as an advocate of drunk driving, when my question was a bit more focused and theoretical. I do understand the reasoning if the impairment caused the event. If it didn't, I don't. And I certainly understand the ancillary issues such as DWI.

    Then I am assuming the homicide charges which are so common now are based on the reasoning that the impairment caused the accident, and convincing evidence to the contrary (however difficult to materialize) would be a defense. In the cases we see, then, I would assume the law is such that the causal link between impairment and the event is simply assumed and given priority. If it was clear (as in your example) that the impaired person did nothing to cause the accident, then it is not murder. That clears it up for me, because I had been told it was.


    I think (none / 0) (#36)
    by jbindc on Wed May 18, 2011 at 09:41:04 AM EST
    The only murder charges you hear about are where the drunk driver caused an accident.  You probably don't pay attention to stories about accidents where a sober driver caused an accident with a drunk and was killed in the process. 1) Probably because that doesn't happen very often, and 2) it probably wouldn't stick in your mind. More often than not, it's the drunk who causes an accident and is not killed.

    and... (none / 0) (#37)
    by JamesTX on Wed May 18, 2011 at 10:10:25 AM EST
    3) probably because those cases are not as interesting and are not widely publicized, since there is no murder charge, obviously?

    I can see that. I don't see this:

    ...it probably wouldn't stick in your mind.

    It would stick in my mind! It would be less likely to stick in your mind, because it is likely contrary to your beliefs. We tend to miss data which is inconsistent with our beliefs. It's called "confirmation bias".


    I'm not sure what my beliefs have to do (none / 0) (#38)
    by jbindc on Wed May 18, 2011 at 10:25:15 AM EST
    with anything.  I just know what facts are related to drunk and impaired driving.

    What a treasure (none / 0) (#39)
    by JamesTX on Thu May 19, 2011 at 05:57:06 AM EST
    trove of data! Thanks!

    I am not sure exactly which statistics in this report address the question we are discussing, though.

    The question is the question of the causal link between impairment and the crashes, and whether an impaired driver can be charged with homicide even if their impairment did not cause the crash. There are three things I do understand and have no real qualms about. First, when the crash is due to the driver violating traffic rules, then the assumption that impairment caused the crash is hard to counter.

    Second, I do not not doubt that impairment causes crashes, but the effect size (essentially the number of crashes truly attributable to impairment -- crashes that would not have occured if the driver were not impaired) is much smaller than the number of crashes where alcohol is involved. There are a number of covariates (confounding variables) which contribute to the correlation between alcohol-involved drivers and fatal crashes. Among them are the most common confounding variables in social science correlational studies -- socio-economic status and stress, age, etc.  That is, poor people and young people are more likely to drink and more likely to have crashes to begin with for a number of reasons. Part of what is being picked up in these statistics is that simple fact -- the population involved is more crash-prone for a variety of reasons. Third, I would like to see studies where some of those variables are partialed out, and there may be some in the report you sent.

    Thanks again.


    Because the victims are Americans (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by nyjets on Mon May 16, 2011 at 10:06:05 PM EST
    'Why do we have to be the world's jailer, and spend millions of dollars to lock these young men up for life?'
    If the victims were of another nationality, that country could handle it. However, the victims were Americans so we get them. Somalia can not handle them, summary executions are wrong so we have to jail them for life.

    'Does anyone even remotely think this will have a deterrent effect on others in lawless Somalia, where kids grow up knowing nothing besides poverty and decades of warfare?'
    You are right. However the job of the courts is determine if people are guilty of a crime, and if so, to punish them. It is the reponsibilty of others to clean up Somalia.

    'The conditions in Somalia don't excuse murder but they are factors a court ordinarily could consider in determining the length of the sentence. '
    Sorry, there is no good reason to commit acts of piracy and to commit cold blood murder. Life in prison, if they are proven guilty, is exactly what they deserve and I have no problem footing bill for it.

    "no good reason" (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by CST on Tue May 17, 2011 at 09:50:29 AM EST
    to commit acts of piracy - from the person who lives in not Somalia (ny i take it?) is rich.  I seriously doubt you have any idea what it would be like to live there or under those conditions.

    Murder is a bit different but once you've gone down that path it may be hard to back down, and when you grow up with it all around you it's not as far of a leap.

    That's not an excuse, but it may be a reason.  There's a difference.


    I disagree (none / 0) (#15)
    by nyjets on Tue May 17, 2011 at 10:40:10 AM EST
    There is no difference between calling it an excuse or a reason. Either way, an unjustifable act is being justified.
    You are correct. I have no idea what it is like to live under those condition. I also know there is no excuse or reason to commit acts of piracy and murder.

    The moral authority of the rich and comfortable (none / 0) (#17)
    by CST on Tue May 17, 2011 at 10:46:05 AM EST
    It's easy to see things as black and white when your life, or the life of your family, doesn't depend on gray.

    Cold blooded murder is black and white (none / 0) (#18)
    by nyjets on Tue May 17, 2011 at 10:49:17 AM EST
    So cold blooded murder is okay if you come from a hard life? Sorry, something in life are absolute. Like cold blooded murder is always wrong, period.

    did I say it was okay? (none / 0) (#20)
    by CST on Tue May 17, 2011 at 10:55:03 AM EST
    no, I didn't.

    I believe the U.S. is correct to prosecute this.  We do what we have to do to protect our own.  That being said, I don't think we have any supreme moral high ground over Somali pirates.

    You support the death penalty right?  How is that not cold blooded murder?  By the way, I do not support the death penalty.  But I understand the reason others might feel differently.


    We may have been talking in cross purpose (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by nyjets on Tue May 17, 2011 at 10:58:49 AM EST
    Do we have the high morale ground. No, I disagree absolutly with that statement. But we do have the authoriy to prosecute the people involved.
    And no, I do not support the death penalty. I agree that LWOP is the correct and suitable punishment instead of the death penality. (Yes, there are law & order type of people like myself who do not support the death penality :) )

    I guess the difference is (none / 0) (#22)
    by CST on Tue May 17, 2011 at 11:12:45 AM EST
    I have no problem with them considering those other factors for sentancing, I think they are very relevant.

    That being said, my mistake for misinterpreting your statement, I agree we are not as far off as I thought.


    i see your position, as a defense attorney (5.00 / 2) (#6)
    by cpinva on Tue May 17, 2011 at 12:34:15 AM EST
    (not me, you). however, i assume, from your post, you're not familiar with maritime law, which would answer many of your questions, regarding appropriate venue, etc.

    whether he pulled the trigger or not is irrelevant, as the act of piracy on the high seas is, itself, a guarantee of a life sentence, for obvious reasons. it could be worse, piracy used to be an international capital offense, an automatic death penalty upon conviction.

    the situation in somalia isn't the court's problem, justice is.

    They're lucky we picked them up (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by andgarden on Tue May 17, 2011 at 10:15:54 AM EST
    and not, say, China. I can't say I really have much problem with this, assuming they're entitled to competent representation.

    Donald... (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by ScottW714 on Tue May 17, 2011 at 10:45:46 AM EST
    ... Maritime law is dated.  There are all kinds of prescriptions that no modern day Navy/Nation would ever use.  So we are essentially cherry picking pieces of ancient law to fit our needs.  If they are going to pretend Maritime law is king, then they should follow it to the letter or call it what it is, outdated non-sense that is superseded by nearly every modern day treaty.  We talking about law written during the Roman Empire, not exactly known for it's humanity.

    I know Americans were the victims, but those Americans had not set foot on American soil for years and those Americans parted with their entourage to sail through known pirates waters.  And has the exact same incident occurred w/i 12 miles of land, a totally different set of circumstances would have occurred in regards to prosecution.

    As it stands, that 12 mile rule only applies to Nations who signed UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea), and then only about half the countries signed.  Other Nations feel that their territorial water extend as much as 200 miles.  My point is the 'laws' used are so vague and not commonly recognized that basically they can do whatever they want to anyone under some premise of some treaty or law.

    Just doesn't feel like justice to me, no rule of law, no jury of one's peers, and all in a foreign land 10,000 miles from the actual crime using some outdated claims of jurisdiction.

    Why bother with a trial, it's a waste of resources, and the outcome is certainly assured.  The fact that we even bother to try and make the proceeding appear fair seems to indicate that what is happening is anything but fair.

    There is no pther option (none / 0) (#19)
    by nyjets on Tue May 17, 2011 at 10:52:49 AM EST
    Someone has to try these individuals. They have allegedly commited acts of piracy. There own country can not handle it. No other country is has any interest in handling the case because they are not directly involved. It has to be us. They were still Americans when they were murderd.
    They simply should not be allowed to go free, unless you want the military to simple put a bullet in there brains and throw the bodies into the see. That 'solution' is much much worse.

    Better... (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by ScottW714 on Tue May 17, 2011 at 11:52:09 AM EST
    ... rigged justice than no justice ?

    "There is no other option" is a pretty lame excuse for running around the Constitution which clearly states, "a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed."

    Pirating is nothing new, if they can't figure out another option, then maybe we shouldn't prosecute them using an clearly flawed option.

    Rigged trials are IMO far worse than no trial, why fake it, why pretend the entire trial is fair when the outcome is assured ?  Because Americans want and like fair trials so they fake it to appease us, and the world.  Locking them up to save money on a bogus trial would never fly, so they pretend this whole mess is fair.

    Then at least some can claim "there is no other option" which seems to be enough for some, but not me, either do it right, or don't bother, this half A show trial non-sense isn't what America is about.  But as long as people like you keep defending it, it will eventually be what we are about, show trials to appease the people while eluding actual justice.


    So we let murders go free (none / 0) (#25)
    by nyjets on Tue May 17, 2011 at 12:06:15 PM EST
    So you find it acceptable to let murders go free then?
    And how exactly is this a rigged trial. The prosection has the evidence. They have the jurisdiction. American citizens were murdered. I am sorry, there is nothing rigged about the trial. There is no international court that can handle the case. So we get them unless you are happy to allow murders to get away with their crimes.

    Roman Law? (none / 0) (#32)
    by sangreal on Tue May 17, 2011 at 02:11:06 PM EST
    The UNCLOS is not that old and spells out what is to be done in this situation

    Article 105

    Seizure of a pirate ship or aircraft

    On the high seas, or in any other place outside the jurisdiction of any State, every State may seize a pirate ship or aircraft, or a ship or aircraft taken by piracy and under the control of pirates, and arrest the persons and seize the property on board. The courts of the State which carried out the seizure may decide upon the penalties to be imposed, and may also determine the action to be taken with regard to the ships, aircraft or property, subject to the rights of third parties acting in good faith.

    The US did not ratify this treaty, but does abide by it


    Wasted Money (5.00 / 2) (#27)
    by mmc9431 on Tue May 17, 2011 at 12:46:13 PM EST
    Maybe if we didn't put people in prison that aren't really a threat to society we wouldn't have to worry about the expense of those that truly belong there. We could start by reevaluating  the merit of the three strike laws!

    Everyone is screaming about the need to cut spending but no one is willing to even look at the outrageous spending on prisons throughout the country. Maybe that's because we've turned them into "for profit" enterprises?

    Love ya mmc... (5.00 / 1) (#29)
    by kdog on Tue May 17, 2011 at 01:13:00 PM EST
    but you don't know this place at all, do you?

    We're only broke when it comes time to help somebody, or pay teachers a decent salary...when it comes to caging and making war, we're Daddy F*ckin' Warbucks.


    I know this place only too well! (5.00 / 0) (#30)
    by mmc9431 on Tue May 17, 2011 at 01:30:02 PM EST
    Reagan convinced the country to sell out it's humanities for the quick buck and forget about the future. We became the "me society" and we haven't looked back.

    There's never a shortage of money for guns, bombs and fighting crime!


    Insult to injury... (5.00 / 0) (#31)
    by kdog on Tue May 17, 2011 at 01:43:25 PM EST
    it's our money, or money borrowed in our name.

    I'm afraid any "yes we can!" has gotta start with widespread tax revolt.


    What Would Work... (2.00 / 1) (#4)
    by jarober on Mon May 16, 2011 at 09:52:39 PM EST
    There's a simple thing that used to be done to pirates, and it works quite well to deter others: summary execution on the spot.  You don't want to get executed?  Don't go to sea with pirates.  It's simple, it's worked in the past, and it's cheap.

    So you're saying.... (5.00 / 3) (#9)
    by kdog on Tue May 17, 2011 at 08:42:59 AM EST
    we can just roll into the corporate offices of Goldman Sachs with a firing squad?  

    Sounds kinda barbaric to me, if effective to deter economic piracy.


    Oh, kdog (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by sj on Tue May 17, 2011 at 09:31:19 AM EST
    I'm liking you more and more.

    We've got each other kid... (5.00 / 2) (#11)
    by kdog on Tue May 17, 2011 at 09:44:17 AM EST
    good thing too because this country has gone to shite.

    Paging Eric Holder, Attorney General Eric Holder...there are pirates on Wall begging...BEGGING...to be indicted.  You are not the Attorney General of the high seas, but of our low down dirty land...and the crime of the century just went down right under your nose.

    Yeah, I got my Rolling Stone dose of Taibbi in the mail last night...that guy should be Attorney General:)


    Steal a little and they throw you in jail (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by ruffian on Tue May 17, 2011 at 11:53:14 AM EST
    Steal a lot and they make you king - Bob dylan

    Most poignant... (none / 0) (#28)
    by kdog on Tue May 17, 2011 at 01:06:10 PM EST
    a top 70 list of Dylan's songs in same said issue.

    We can't put out the raging inferno because "the pumps don't work cause the vandals took the handles", so that leaves putting out cigarette butts with an empty promise that they're fighting the fire...a bigger crock is hard to find.


    what's the marginal cost (none / 0) (#3)
    by diogenes on Mon May 16, 2011 at 09:22:38 PM EST
    "the monthly cost of imprisoning a federal inmate is $2,271. For a year, that's $27,000 plus change."

    That's the average cost.  What's the marginal cost of adding ten pirates to the existing system?  

    0.00000001% (none / 0) (#34)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Tue May 17, 2011 at 03:47:50 PM EST
    BTW, it should be Somali Pirates, not Priates (none / 0) (#8)
    by Harry Saxon on Tue May 17, 2011 at 08:29:57 AM EST