Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Captain Chooses To Sink His Ship

Manny Fernandez in the Times put it this way.
Prosecutors had from the start built a case for execution for an attack that a Senate report called the worst act of terrorism on American soil since Sept. 11, 2001. But Major Hasan, a Muslim, taunted the military justice system, refusing to put up a defense and suggesting in and out of court that death to him was but a means to martyrdom, leaving jurors to ponder whether to give him what he wanted.

His stance left the Army’s lead prosecutor, Col. Michael Mulligan, telling jurors during his closing argument on Wednesday morning that Major Hasan was not and never would be a martyr.

“Do not be fooled,” he told the 13 senior Army officers on the panel. “He is not giving his life. We are taking his life. This is not his gift to God. This is his debt to society.”
And the jury, well, if they were to follow their oaths and base their decision on the evidence and the law, and since no abolitionists would be allowed, well they really had no choice.   Which doesn't make it any more palatable.

It's retribution, Colonel Mulligan said.  It's for what he did.  But retribution suggests equivalence, and the parade of victims and family belie that.  For them there's no equivalence.  There can be none.  What there can be is revenge.  Nor is there equivalence for what he did to the military and the government and the system in whose name the prosecution is brought.  After all, he didn't just kill.  He denied that fundamental bond, broke trust, violated oaths, and demonstrated the inadequacy of all they do to ensure that shit like that wouldn't happen.

And for that we give him what he want and declare it's fitting retribution and what he deserves.

Is he a martyr?  Will he be if it should someday happen that he gets executed?  There are those who no doubt will think so.  He is apparently among them.  Will he be lifted to heaven, as he expects, for what he did?  Despite what he declared, Col. Mulligan has no more actual information about that than Major Hasan does.  

But there's this:  If you don't defend yourself, don't offer an argument for life.  If you just sit there.  
Major Hasan was found competent to stand trial, and the judge, Col. Tara A. Osborn, who repeatedly told him it was unwise to proceed on his own, said his right to represent himself allowed him to be, as she put it, “the captain of his own ship.”

Major Hasan admitted to the jury in his opening statement that he was the gunman. He asked few questions, made few objections to testimony and entered one exhibit into evidence. He made no closing argument.

His entire sentencing case amounted to three words: “The defense rests.”
If that, then there was really no choice.  He told the jury in that one exhibit that, the Times said, defined jihad
as a duty to combat the enemies of Islam, fulfilled by the heart, the tongue, the hand or the sword. Those who die fighting in God’s cause, the two parties agreed, are “guaranteed a place in paradise.”
They gave him what he wanted.  The system says that punishes him.  It's not punishment.  It's not retribution.  

Ours is supposed to be an adversarial system where the government presents a case and the defense rebuts it.  The government argues and the defense disputes.  When the defense doesn't participate, however much the defense may have that right, the system isn't working.

The jury said Major Hasan should be killed, which may have been the legally correct sentence.  

Charles Dickens cut to the chase in Oliver Twist.
"If the law supposes that," said Mr. Bumble, squeezing his hat emphatically in both hands, "the law is a ass- a idiot."

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