Holder Will Seek Death Penalty in 9/11 Trials in N.Y. Federal Court
Attorney General Eric Holder just announced that he will seek the death penalty for the five 9/11 terror suspects. They will be tried in a New York federal court, as reported earlier this morning.
Seeking the death penalty may be controversial, given that most of the suspects, including self-proclaimed mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed, have said that they want to be put to death and thereby become martyrs for their cause.
That’s led some influential policy advisors to recommend that the 9/11 suspects not be given the death penalty, to deny them that apparent victory.
Additional concerns are the risks of trying the suspects in New York City, which some critics claim will make the city yet again a terrorist target. Others worry that the defendants can’t get a fair trial before jurors sitting so close to the scene of the Sept. 11, 2001 crime. Still others fear defense lawyers will use that concern to appeal any convictions.
At a press conference this morning, Holder sought to assuage the concerns by saying the utmost security measures would be employed, and “a really searching, complete voir dire process” will ensure that the jurors are fair. The voir dire process is how jurors are chosen for a particular trial.
As for whether evidence about their treatment by U.S. officials in custody will come out during the trial, Holder said that it depends on “how relevant were those statements” extracted by abusive measures, and “whether those statements will be used.” Even without statements elicited through waterboarding or other forms of torture or coercion, Holder said he’s “quite confident that we will be successful in our attempts to convict those men.” He did not say what would happen to the suspects if they were acquitted.
Holder called the decision to try the 9/11 suspects in federal court “about the toughest decision that I’ve had to make as attorney general.” A formal indictment listing the charges is expected soon.