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Trial by Press Conference


Larry

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I've been noticing what I think is a trend. Can't really say whether it's been increasing, or maybe I'm simply becoming sensitized due to repeated exposure. But I'm pretty certain that I don't like it.

What's bothering me is when the government decides to hold press conferences for the purpose of accusing someone. Particularly in cases in which the government is choosing not to make the accusations in a courtroom.

The Government makes Jose Padilla dissappear. They hold him in solitary, allow him no contact with any one but his interrogators, for years. The government insists that they are not going to put him on trial, that they
cannot
put him on trial. That merely allowing his case to see the inside of a courtroom, and actually presenting evidence against him, would result in the utter destruction of the United States.

But, they don't have any trouble with publicly announcing a list of the things that the government
would
be accusing him of, if there was actually a trial.

When his case finally, after years, makes it to the Supreme Court, then the government, who is telling the USSC that it would completely destroy the country if the government were to actually accuse accuse the man, in court, and present evidence against him, has no problem at all holding a press conference so that the prosecution can make public announcements about what a horrible person Padilla is.

(And, when it becomes clear that the government is going to lose their case, then suddenly it becomes acceptable to put him on trial, after all.)

This Anthrax guy. When he was alive, the Government didn't have enough of a case for an indictment. Not even enough to arrest him. But when he dies, suddenly the government has a case, and they're eager to display their case. On the steps,
outside
the courtroom. Where there's no defense attorney. And the witnesses don't actually have to testify. Never take an oath. Never be cross examined. Never even give their name for the record. (Instead, the government can simply announce that "we have a witness who would have said".)

A woman says she's been raped. We're not allowed to reveal the name of the person who has sworn, under oath, that something happened which she witnessed. But the
accused
gets his name, address, and employer named on TV. Along with pictures of the accused in handcuffs.

The government can accuse "Ossama's Driver" of being a terrorist in the newspapers. Why can't they accuse him in an open courtroom?

In short, the government has no trouble putting the guy on "trial", if they can do it in a "courtroom" where there's no Judge, no laws, no defense lawyer, no requirement to actually document where this claim came from. Where any evidence that doesn't support the government's claim doesn't have to be shown.

I'm not really sure that there's a good way to solve what I think is a problem.

Part of me says that in a perfect world, the government would say absolutely nothing to the public about any investigations in progress. They should do their speaking in the courtroom.

OTOH, if that happens, then does that mean that the cops don't operate on public view, any more?

Is this kind of stuff a necessary product of the admirable goal of having public oversight of our judicial system?

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