Padilla Verdict Announced Soon

Ken AshfordConstitutionLeave a Comment

Background:  The Bush administration accused Padilla after his 2002 arrest of plotting to set off a radioactive bomb. Bush ordered him imprisoned by the military as an "enemy combatant."   He languished in jail for years, without so much as a trial (or even an indictment).  Amid court challenges to the president’s authority to do that, Padilla was indicted in a civilian court in November 2005 on charges that do not mention any bomb plot.

The charges:

Count 1 – Conspiracy to Murder, Kidnap, and Maim Persons in a Foreign Country as part of a conspiracy to advance violent jihad
Count 2 – Conspiracy to Provide Material Support for Terrorists
Count 3 – Material Support for Terrorists
Counts 4 and 5 are against alleged co-conspirator Adham Amin Hassoun for unlawful possession of a weapon and making a false statement
Counts 6 through 10 are against Hassoun for multiple charges of perjury
Count 11 is against Hassoun for obstruction

The jury has reached a verdict, to be announced at 2:00 pm ET.  Orin Kerr, I think, has it right when he writes:

The Jose Padilla case is complicated, and those who need a script for commentary when the verdict is handed down in an hour or so should follow these simple guidelines:

  Script for Supporters of the Bush Administration: If the jury convicts, this proves how strong the government’s case has been all along. If the jury acquits, this proves that you can’t try to bring terrorism cases in a criminal court system.

  Script for Opponents of the Bush Administration: If the jury convicts, this shows how the criminal justice system can indeed handle terrorism cases. If the jury acquits, this shows just how weak the case against Padilla has been all along.

I tend to think he’s right.  Personally, I think the big issue surrounding Padilla is not whether or not he is guilty, but whether or not he (a U.S. citizen) is entltled to due process.  The Constitution, of course, says he is.  And at this point, he finally has received it.  So the verdict itself is reather meaningless.

UPDATE:  He’s guilty.  See, the criminal system works (following the script…)

ANOTHER UPDATE:  Orin Kerr follows his own script (somewhat) and agrees with me:

Every case is different, and no one verdict can settle very much in this debate; each verdict can only be a single data point in a broader set. But this case adds a data point in favor of using the criminal justice system. Beyond that, though, this verdict doesn’t settle very much. Most importantly, it doesn’t change how Padilla has been treated all this time; it doesn’t erase the last six years. So while this one case is over, the questions it raised should and will continue.