Sentence First, Verdict Afterwards: Obama Assures Public KSM Will Be Convicted and Executed

It was the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland that declared “Sentence first! Verdict afterwards.” However, President Barack Obama appears to have taken a lesson our two from her majesty. Today, President Obama assured Americans that they should not be offended by trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in federal court because he will be convicted and executed. I will be discussing this story tonight on MSNBC Countdown.

In an interview with NBC News, Obama said those offended by the trial will not find it “offensive at all when he’s convicted and when the death penalty is applied to him.” He then appeared to recognize the impropriety of those remarks and said that he was “not going to be in that courtroom. That’s the job of the prosecutors, the judge and the jury.”

It is highly ironic that, in defending the noble decision to grant a fair trial to these men, Obama may have crossed the line in contributing to the prejudicial atmosphere against them. It is always a bad idea for a politician to comment on cases pre-trial. However, the greater damage may have been caused by Attorney General Eric Holder in his original press conference on the decision. The only thing missing from that transcript is a case caption to make it a formal motion for venue change. Holder specifically states that he wanted KSM tried a couple blocks from ground zero and wanted to give New Yorkers the satisfaction of trying one of the villains of 9-11.

I am not certain that such a trial will occur. If there is a case to be made for a venue change, this is it. Holder only magnified the need for such a motion.

For the full story, click here.

50 thoughts on “Sentence First, Verdict Afterwards: Obama Assures Public KSM Will Be Convicted and Executed”

  1. Buddha and Jill,

    There’s plenty to criticize Obama about, let’s not cry tyranny over what’s probably a slip of a tongue.

    Let’s cry tyranny about his actual policies. You want to talk about his continuation of clearly illegal Bush policies, I’m there. You want to complain about his back tracking on campaign promises, count me in. You want to have a discussion about his support of clearly discriminatory marriage laws, I’m sure you know I’ll be a voice.

    This however requires nothing more than “that was stupid,” possibly with “it’s been awhile since he’s practiced law.” Do you honestly think that the President saying “when” and not “if” is going to change the opinion of one person in this country about this trial? Either you still have faith in the system we’ve been saying should be used these long years since 9\11 or you think it’s weak enough that a single misplaced word can turn it into a show trial. If the second is the case, then it was going to be a show trial anyway.

    Your constant assertion that I “don’t get” politics just because I refuse to consider every single utterance as incredibly important is insulting, and quite frankly I’m sick of it. What I don’t think YOU get is that PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE; even the president of the United States Sometimes must have to stand naked. How many times in the past week has somebody had to go back and edit what they’ve said on this website? That’s with the opportunity to reread and consider before you hit “submit.” As much as I would like for President Obama to be perfect, he isn’t. He stutters, he misspeaks. As someone who had a severe speech problem growing up, I speak from experience when I say that sometimes your mouth just doesn’t follow your brain, no matter how slowly and carefully you talk.

    I say on slips of the tongue we give people the benefit of the doubt, but on actions we hold them accountable. Sound fair?

  2. Gyges,

    The president is acting like a king. He is also making king-like determinations about our detainees, saying some will get civil trials, some will get military commissions and some will be imprisoned without any trials. I would hope that would bother any citizen of the US as it isn’t Constitutional. He was clearly trying to influence the public, and this also is not acceptable for reasons many of us stated previously.

  3. Gyges,

    I think you underestimate the influence of media as related to the medium of transmission. Does it prevent successful voir dire? Maybe not, but it certainly does not help. Back track or not? Poor law skills exhibited. Slips of similar magnitudes could have serious consequences for a client and/or an attorney. “The King’s influence” is not the issue. Improper influence is. This is improper even if he were not President but merely an attorney attached to the KSM case.

  4. I wonder if Manson received a fair trial. The reason I ask is, aside from the obvious psychological similarities and motives (I wonder if Manson would have been tried as a terrorist these days), there’s the whole Nixon thing.

    The remarks are stupid, but stupid is not the same as evil. Even the Professor admits, the President quickly back tracked. If this was in a planned speech, you’d all have a point about he should have known better, but it wasn’t. Has nobody here ever misspoke at an important moment?

    For as much as some here rally against the idea of “President as King,” they sure seem willing to give him the King’s influence over the courts.

  5. rafflaw,

    You are, by everything I have ever read from you on this blog, a very intelligent and kind person, so I cannot understand how you believe Obama cares about the Constitution when he is willing to imprison the innocent. I just do not understand this.

    “Administration officials say they expect that as many as 40 of the 215 detainees at Guantanamo will be tried in federal court or military commissions . . . . and about 75 more have been deemed too dangerous to release but cannot be prosecuted because of evidentiary issues and limits on the use of classified material’ . . . If true, that means that there are 75 so-called ‘Fifth Category’ detainees who might be subject to indefinite detention without trial” — The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder, yesterday, quoting The Washington Post.” (from Glenn Greenwald today)

  6. WhollieB wrote:

    “By the way, hell has frozen over, except for the Orly Taitz part, I actually agree with FFLEO.”


    Well, Geewillikers WB!

  7. In the first sentence, it should have read “the CASE against KSM.”

    I really don’t want a known terrorist set free, especially one with a death-wish, but at the same time, I am beyond frustrated that this individual was tortured (water boarded 183 times) when we likely had a solid case before the compromised profession. What kind of sense does that make?

  8. I think they should throw out the against KSM case based on the fact that he was tortured. If the American system of justice cannot effectively prosecute a terrorist SUSPECT without torture, they don’t have a case and he or she should be set free. Sorry, that’s the way it works in America.

    Obama knew EXACTLY what he was saying in that interview. He said it to placate those who are upset about the trial in NYC. Holder made the same assurances in his testimony. Their statements were PLANNED.

    Whatever you believe about the genesis of 9/11, the effect has certainly been a decline in the rule of law, the loss of the presumption of innocence, and the curtailing of American freedoms unprecedented in American history…all this while we still do not adequately screen baggage or packages stored in the belly of aircraft, and many international students with visas have gone missing, including a number of students admitted to the country after 9/11.

    What in the hell are we doing as a country? More importantly, what are we TOLERATING as a country?


  9. One could conclude that in order for KSM to receive a fair trial by a jury of his peers, the jury must first be tortured, the verdict must become a state secret, an NSA letter must be issued to all jurors and their librarians to gag them forever, lawyers must be classified as enemy combatants, court stenographers must be placed on a non-existent rendition flight, the judge must be hooded and a White House press release must read “oh hell yes, he’s going to be guilty and we are going to fry his sorry ass.”

    By the way, hell has frozen over, except for the Orly Taitz part, I actually agree with FFLEO. Nothing like a show trial to bring the country together. How’s Somalia for a great venue.

  10. Elaine,

    That’s what the govt. told us. It has never been shown in any kind of independent forum when he was tortured and what information he gave. That’s one important reason we need a trial.

  11. The truth is, we don’t know if KSM is guilty. The “evidence” given to the public is his self confession. We don’t know the circumstances of the confession. What we do know is the US tortured KSM and torture’s highest purpose is to extract confessions. Who has told us about the confession for the past 9 years? The govt. We know that the govt. has lied to the American people about matters of life and death. In my mind, we cannot assume KSM is guilty, let alone that he should be put to death, until the truth comes out in a legitimate civil court trial. Closure doesn’t come from convicting the innocent. It comes from knowing the truth.

    If the govt. wants to restore my faith in the US system of justice, it will reinstitute our system of justice. That would include a full investigation of torture, going to the top, and it would include full and fair trials of our detainees.

  12. Fair trial in the USA surely you jest. We have to show the world how righteous and justified we are in all aspects of war. Meep.

  13. BIL,

    In Australia we’ve seen it sensationalised on the news services already.

    Obama saying “when” rather than “if” and the conflict media goes to work with; GOTCHA!!

    It is not mature, it is not professional from the media. It’s TERRIBLE for POTUS if he meant to say it, I agree. I suggest he didn’t, and that he might well have been given the opportunity, with a sensible question to correct it;

    “Sir, did you mean that?” That sort of on/off record stuff goes on all the time.

    It’s not naive or Machiavellian; our leaders and our media should NOT be inflaming a significant issue.

  14. BIL–

    I was the one who questioned whether it was a “Freudian slip” of the tongue. It could also have been an inadvertent slip–or an intentional comment. All of which give me pause for thought.

    My husband and I aren’t lawyers–but we were both taken aback by what President Obama said.

  15. Pete,

    Do over.


    “Grow up” is your counter argument.

    Unless you’d like a “re-do”.

    Like a 5 year old.

    1) He’s a LAWYER. He should know better than to make such prejudicial remarks in the press ABOUT ANY CASE much less one this important. If he DOESN’T he’s incompetent. Or he has a reason. End of story. This is not open for debate and you’d know this if you had a law degree. This is basic stuff – Lawyer 101.

    2) He’s PRESIDENT. His sworn duty is to uphold the Constitution, not enable and perpetuate violations of said document. Duh. The Oath of Office is called an oath and not a suggestion for a reason. Basic Con Law. You don’t need to be scholar to understand that. Even a cursory understanding of Art. II tells one this.

    3) He’s MEDIA SAVVY or surrounded with media savvy people. Look how he got elected. Their specialty is controlling information. If you don’t think it was cleared by someone as a taped interview? You are naive in the extreme. Machiavelli in the Modern Age 101.

    Restoring the Constitution and the Rule of Law are the two absolute requirements for helping repair the damage of the Bush years – both domestically and in our foreign relations. Losing the moral high ground our systemic protections USED to provide kind of makes it hard to tell other nations how to behave and not have them laugh at us. No matter his motivation, any action he takes counter to that is a move that helps the bad guys.

    So next time you want to make the “grow up” counter argument, perhaps you should take your own advice and not act like a simpleton when it comes to the analysis of substantive and significant issues of our time – namely the nature of politicians and the violations of the Constitution that this so-called “scholar” has not only continued from Bush but in some cases embraced.

  16. Was Obama live to air? I’d suggest it should have been possible for POTUS to request that footage not be used. A professional media organisation should also have people capable of recognising a mistake or suggesting it as a mistake if said and offering a “re-take”.

    Didn’t something similar happen with Obama’s “slip” with disabled sports or …. ??? I forget – it was unflattering anyway.

    The problem is the reactionaries to the “re-take” are just as bad, if not more aggressive with claims of manipulation!!!! Oh the outrage!

    It would be helpful if everyone was a bit more grown up about some of the more substantive and significant issues of our time.

  17. raff,

    I might have found that persuasive at one point. But there are simple truths in the nature of a man and his actions. Lawyers understand prejudicial language or they are not worth the parchment their diploma is printed on. It’s that simple. He’s too accomplished a speaker not to know what was coming out of his mouth either. Did someone say Freudian Slip? That’s even worse. For someone touting bringing our enemies to justice, he’s been doing a pretty half-assed job of it and saying something prejudicial like he said was unprofessional at best, reckless in any case, and a stunning display of poor judgment.

    Sorry, but as time goes on, he’s not keeping his word on much of anything of substantial value but most especially as it applies to the Constitution. Need I say more than his continued use of Bush-style signing statements violates the Separation of Powers Doctrine? Writing law at His Imperial Whim is WAY outside the President’s job description as prescribed by our Founding Fathers. That alone shows how seriously I think this “scholar” takes the Constitution. Gitmo open and the Patriot Act still in place with all their attached abuses. Cheney not under arrest. The list just keeps growing. He’s proving not just a disappointment. That’d be acceptable. He’s turning out to be a fraud. Simply unacceptable. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had about enough of fraud in government and in the character of men. Failure is one thing. Empty promises and lies quite another.

  18. I have no experience in Law except having served on a couple of juries. I do, however, have several friends and relatives in that profession and the President’s comments were all they talked about. Everyone of them agreed with the general sentiment as expressed on this blog. People who voted for him are seriously beginning to question his principles, or lack there of.

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