Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Ignore the Guantánamo Confessions

So five accused planners of Sept. 11 want to confess, avoid a trial, and enter paradise via lethal injection. Their wishes should have no bearing on their cases. First, there is an alarming incidence of false confession, to the extent that, if guilt cannot be established by evidence, confession alone should not be decisive. One of the causes of false confession according to the Innocence Project, by the way, is torture and the threat of torture—not that this would have any relevance to Guantánamo inmates, of course. The second thing to consider is the larger significance of the legal case against these men. The damage done to America’s global reputation and to popular views about justice at home cannot be erased, but the first step toward recovery is a public embrace of the rule of law. If the evidence against them is sufficient, put them on trial. Demonstrate a commitment to truth and fairness of judgment. If they did in fact plot murder against innocent thousands, show the cruel calculation of their planning. And if the evidence isn’t there, the confessions don’t take its place.


Shag from Brookline said...

Is this similar to "suicide by cop"?

Theodore M. Seeber said...

If they did do it, death by lethal injection is too good for them. If they didn't do it and it's a false confession, then death by lethal injection is too much.

Two good reasons to just say no.

Anonymous said...

The question of their being guilty or not has forever been obscured by their quasi-legal incarceration and the conditions under which they have been forced to live. The techniques by which they have been questioned and investigated have been so far outside accepted norms as to make any thing that they may "confess" to

Assume that some dramatic new evidence was to some how prove the guilt of any of the group, what purpose does execution serve? There has always been only one indisputable rationale for not executing any one regardless of the level of proof that applies in any case. That rationale being that there is never certainty of guilt in a court. There have been a multitude of cases wherein the prosecutor and/or the investigators
have been found to been less than forthright in their efforts to convict a thought to be guilty party. It is simply unacceptable and inhumane to execute anyone based on the investigative and prosecutorial efforts of others who are only human, as the expression goes.

When are we going to come to acknowledge that people are faulty judges of good and evil or right and wrong. The psychological literature provides sufficient evidence of the inadequacy of "eye witness" recollections. People make lousy reporters of events. We interpret what we see and hear, and more than one witness to an incident will provide a Roshamon set of stories describing that one incident.

We need to get over this lust for execution. Life without parole is for many a far worse alternative, and certainly our prison system doesn't provide an environment that anyone could call worth living. If Timothy McVey had been forced to live his life in prison there would have been some small possibility that he would have, at some point, provided evidence of other involved parties. This would be true of any convicted person. We learn nothing from the dead. We get less satisfaction than that from execution. Execution brings nothing to an end
except the continuing search for the truth concerning any event.