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Opening Arguments Monday in Jose Padilla Terror Trial

The trial of so-called enemy combatant Jose Padilla and his two co-defendants, Adham Amin Hassoun and Kifah Wael Jayyousi, starts Monday with opening arguments. (Jury selection was completed last week.)

Here's a profile of the Judge, Marcia Cooke. CBS legal analyst Andrew Cohen writes that the Judge has a daunting task before her as sparks will be flying in the courtroom.

The LA Times reports on how the case has changed in the last five years since Padilla's capture as someone involved in a dirty bomb plot. Those allegations will not come up in the trial, because if they did, the defense could then raise issues related to his confinement in the South Carolina military brig where he was held for three and one half years in solitary confinement without access to counsel.

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Jury Chosen in Jose Padilla Trial

Seven men and five women have been selected as jurors in the trial of accused enemy combatent and "dirty bomber" Jose Padilla. Opening arguments begin Monday. The trial could last all summer.

There is no "dirty bomber" charge against Padilla.

Instead, Mr. Padilla and his co-defendants, Adham Hassoun and Kifah Jayyousi, stand accused of participating in a “North American support cell” that, the government says, sent money, goods and recruits abroad to assist “global jihad.”

The prosecution and defense attacked each other's juror exclusions:

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Jose Padilla: CIA Agent May Testify in Disguise

The Government has asked the Judge presiding over the Jose Padilla trial to allow a CIA agent to testify in disguise, complete with wig, glasses and facial hair.

The agent's testimony will be about Padilla's application to participate in mujahadeen training, described as al-Qaeda's holy warrior program.

Authentication of the document will come from a cooperating witness.

After the U.S. military invaded Afghanistan to oust its Taliban rulers in late 2001, authorities found a locker full of applications to join al Qaeda's holy war overseas.

At Padilla's bond hearing in January 2006, [Prosecutor] Pell said [Padilla's application] was found among 80 to 100 other mujahadeen (holy warrior) applications found in the country, which harbored al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden before he masterminded the Sept. 11, 2001, U.S. terrorist attacks.

Pell said Padilla's application was authenticated by a ''cooperating government witness'' convicted in an unrelated case who had once filled out the same Arabic ''mujahadeen data form.'' She said Padilla's date of birth, Oct. 18, 1970, was on his application along with his adopted Muslim name, Abu Abdullah Al Mujahir.

It's not an unprecedented motion.

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Jose Padilla Ruled Competent to Stand Trial

A federal judge in Miami today found that Jose Padilla is competent to stand trial.

"This defendant clearly has the capacity to assist his attorneys," Cooke said just hours after she finished four days of competency hearings.

....Cooke said testimony in the competency hearing showed that Padilla understands "legal nuances" of pretrial motions and noted that he had signed a document verifying the truth of allegations made by the defense that he was tortured and mistreated during his years in a Navy brig in Charleston, S.C. "At some time, the defendant was able to discuss some things with his lawyers," Cooke said. "The defendant's situation is unique. He understands that."

Padilla had no reaction in court to the decision. I'm not surprised. He probably had no idea what was going on.

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Padilla vs. Anna Nicole: The U.S. of Entertainment

Great editorial today in the Miami Herald on how we've turned into the United States of Entertainment. It begins:

Jose Padilla is not a dead buxom blonde, which may help explain why a hearing to determine his fitness to stand trial was no contest for the animated proceedings taking place one county to the north.

Anna Nicole Smith, dead two weeks, drew the cameras, the curious and the commentators. Thursday, a weepy Broward judge ruled on the fate of Smith's corpse as thousands followed the show on national television.

Down in Miami, the still-living Jose Padilla attracted just a couple of earnest reporters, some legal geeks and two cameramen who were stranded outside the federal courthouse because filming was banned inside. So it goes in these United States of Entertainment. Four years into the war in Iraq, torture has become the stuff of TV dramas while justice serves the cause of celebrity.

After a discussion of Padilla's case, it concludes:

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Jose Padilla: Shrink Says He Has Stockholm Syndrome

Via Raw Story, A psychiatrist testified today Jose Padilla has Stockholm Syndrome.

A pre-hearing synopsis is at the Miami Herald.

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Jose Padilla Competency Hearing Continued

Jose Padilla's has competency hearing has been continued to February 22 due to a report from prison shrinks that he's mentally fit for trial. The defense claims there are inaccuracies in the report.

The Christian Science Monitor today examine Padilla's allegation that he was tortured while held in the South Carolina brig for four years and cannot assist his lawyers in his defense.

...federal prosecutors are expected to urge the judge to ignore everything that took place during Padilla's military detention. They say his harsh treatment is irrelevant to whether he is mentally competent to stand trial.

Padilla's lawyers disagree. They say their client was tortured by the military and they are asking the judge to order the government to fully account for its treatment of Padilla.

Here's an article from a few weeks ago examining whether Padilla's allegations meet the definition of torture.

Update: The Judge has ordered three from the S.C. military brig to testify at Padilla's competency hearing.

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Jose Padilla and Gratuitous Cruelty

Fred Grimm at the Miami Herald has a column on detained "enemy combatant" Jose Padilla.

In describing his trip to the jail dentist, Grimm writes:

Padilla's dental visit -- photos of the exercise are in the federal court files -- reach beyond the legal questions. It has the look of gratuitous cruelty.

The treatment of an American citizen in pretrial detention seemed to be taken from the imaginings of Kafka. It appeared to be sensory deprivation just for the hell of it.

Grimm recaps Padilla's treatment:

The accused was held in extreme isolation for 1,307 days. Held in a nine-by-seven-foot cell. The only window blacked out. He was the lone prisoner on the two-tier cellblock. He was given food through a slot in the door. He slept on a steel mattress. No reading material. No calendar. No clock. Nothing to connect him to the outside world.

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Jose Padilla Trial Continued Until April

Good news on the Jose Padilla front: His federal court trial has been continued from January 22 until April, so that a full mental evaluation can be performed.

Background here and here.

Oral argument on the judge's decision dismissing the most serious count against him was held before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals this week. The judges were less than hospitable to the defense arguments, but one can never predict how an appeals court will rule.

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The Jose Padilla Wiretaps

The New York Times recounts the conversations recorded on the wiretaps in the Jose Padilla case. Shorter version:

Tens of thousands of conversations were recorded. Some 230 phone calls form the core of the government’s case, including 21 that make reference to Mr. Padilla, prosecutors said. But Mr. Padilla’s voice is heard on only seven calls. And on those seven, which The Times obtained from a participant in the case, Mr. Padilla does not discuss violent plots.

What's the prosecution's strongest evidence?

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Judge Orders Mental Exam for Jose Padilla

The federal judge presiding over the Jose Padilla trial ordered him to be mentally evaluated by Bureau of Prisons doctors.

Defense attorneys have argued that 3-1/2 years of torture and solitary confinement in a military brig had left Padilla mentally ill and unable to understand the charges against him or assist in his defense.

Prosecutors have emphatically denied that Padilla was mistreated in any way but did not object to his undergoing a mental exam.

Is that because they have faith the BOP shrinks will rule for them?

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Trying Terror Cases the Old Fashioned Way

Alex Koppelman at Salon compares the prosecution of Jose Padilla to that of a home-grown terrorist tried the old-fashioned way and explains why the Padilla method is likely to fail.

That the prosecution of Crocker ended so successfully points to what may ultimately be the most significant difference between the Crocker and Padilla cases. Crocker was investigated, prosecuted and detained in the old, pre-9/11 way, and his case has held up even as the Padilla prosecution has self-destructed.

The Crocker case was brought in by old-fashioned police work. A confidential informant passed on a tip and a sting was conducted by an FBI agent careful to make sure the plan was real and not a creation of the government. No lawyer for Crocker has ever filed an allegation that Crocker was tortured. He wasn't even cuffed or shackled at his arraignment. The case against Padilla, on the other hand, came about through anything but normal means, and that has been its downfall.

The Wall St. Journal (free link) examines the problems the Pentagon has encountered with the military commission trial of Canadian teenager Omar Khahr.

I see Omar Khadr, Child of Jihad, much different than the military.

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Feds Move to Block Jose Padilla Subpoenas

Jose Padilla's defense lawyers have subpoenaed Department of Defense officials and records pertaining to his treatment during his three years in the South Carolina brig.

Today, the feds moved to quash the subpoenas in an effort to prevent the defense from introducing evidence of his treatment and conditions of confinement at trial.

What the defense asked for:

Defense attorneys have issued subpoenas for at least four military officials, including a security officer and technical official at the Navy brig in Charleston, S.C., where Padilla was jailed. They have also subpoenaed Maj. Gen. D.D. Thiessen, commander of U.S. Marine forces in Japan, about treatment of other enemy combatants, according to court documents.

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