Attorney General Eric Holder acknowledged on Wednesday a previously unspoken proviso to the controversial decision to try alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four co-conspirators in a federal court in New York: even if the defendants are somehow acquitted, they will still stay behind bars.
Holder's comments at a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee would seem to turn the criminal-justice system on its head. The whole point of a criminal trial is to determine guilt—and if the government fails to make its case beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant walks free.
At least that's the way the system usually works. [...]
"It's heads I win, tails you lose," says Joshua Dratel, a top New York criminal-defense lawyer who has represented numerous defendants in terrorism cases. "It does unfortunately ruin the effect of the notion that we are bringing them to federal court to uphold the rule of law, if you say, 'If the rule of law doesn't work, we'll try something else.'"
It's now a question to think about.