Tuesday, August 27, 2013

History doesn't have to repeat itself to create a farce


  [fahrs] noun, verb, farced, farc·ing.
a light, humorous play in which the plot depends upon a skillfully exploited situation rather 
than upon the development ofcharacter.
humor of the type displayed in such works.
foolish show; mockery; a ridiculous sham.
Cookery. forcemeat.

When Col. Tara Osborn denied the request by Nidal Hassan's attorneys to withdraw from the case, she put her stamp on the farce of a trial the court-martial has been.

It has been apparent from the beginning that Maj. Hassan was angling for a needle in the arm. He did nothing to challenge any of the jurors for cause. The prosecution had the task of qualifying the jurors for a case in which the death penalty was an option. After hearing juror after juror announce that he could vote for the death penalty if the evidence warranted, Maj. Hassan never asked any juror if he could consider a life sentence given the evidence that would be heard.

During his opening statement, Maj. Hassan told the jury that he had done exactly what he was accused of doing. That admission all but guaranteed a guilty verdict. From there Maj. Hassan chose not to confront the witnesses against him (with rare exception).

Finally, after all the damning evidence against him, Maj. Hassan chose not to put on a defense.

Toward the end of the prosecution's case that Maj. Hassan's former attorneys (who had been appointed by the court to serve as stand-by counsel) asked to be allowed to withdraw from the case. Their argument was that Maj. Hassan was doing everything he could to receive a death sentence. That was the point at which Col. Osborn had the opportunity to do the right thing.

She had a choice. She could have allowed the attorneys to withdraw from the case - as was their ethical duty given the circumstances. There is no legitimate purpose in forcing attorneys to stay on a case when their client is aiming for death. If a defendant chooses to tank his own case, there is no need for an attorney to sit on his hands behind him.

Or she could force the attorneys to stay on the case in order to protect a death sentence. By forcing the attorneys to stay on the case she was doing what she could to prevent Mjr. Hassan from challenging a death sentence on the grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel. Why worry about ethics when we need some finality?

Maj. Hassan didn't need the assistance of counsel during his trial. He never objected. He never attempted to introduce any evidence. The attorneys were nothing more than potted plants to the proceedings.

And so, as a result, we end up with a farce of a trial that will end with Maj. Hassan being condemned to die at the hand of the state.


This afternoon the punishment phase of Maj. Hassan's trial came to a conclusion. Maj. Hassan rested without taking the stand on his on behalf. While his behavior during the trial should raise serious questions in the minds of the jurors as to whether the death penalty is justified, the die has already been cast.

Maj. Hassan will be sentenced to die and Col. Osborn will have done her duty in seeing that the wheels of justice spin right on along regardless of the circumstances and ethical considerations.

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