"Four men due in court Thursday to face charges of plotting to bomb Jewish sites and shoot down military planes were arrested after planting what they thought were explosive devices near a synagogue and community center, authorities say. The suspects were arrested shortly after planting a mock explosive device in the trunk of a car outside the Riverdale Temple and two mock bombs in the backseat of a car outside the Jewish Center, authorities said. Police blocked their escape with an 18-wheel truck, smashing their tinted SUV windows and while apprehending the unarmed suspects."
As I was reading this, it struck me. Why did they wait so long? I had to hearken back to my first year Criminal Law class at law school. Prosecutors are burdened with proving guilt "beyond a REASONABLE doubt" in criminal litigation. What does this mysterious phrase mean? (The definition of "reasonble" has been the Gordian Knot of common law jurisprudence. It remains so today.) Well, it means that if even one juror is left hesitating as to whether the suspect committed the crime, the suspect goes free. The prosecutor has not met his burden. If you've never been on a criminal jury, you may be somewhat perplexed. Our criminal justice presumes ALL suspects are just that, only suspects. You are presumed innocent until proven guilty by your peers. This is a sacrosanct underpinning of American jurisprudence.
Back to my point. The FBI and the prosecutors had to wait until the terrorists' hands were in the cookie jar because they knew they would need as much evidence possibly obtainable in order to surmount the high burden of proof in court. Here's my problem with this scenario. I think we can safely assume that investigators and prosecutors have amassed a shit-ton of evidence clearly showing that these 4 terrorists are guilty. The investigation began back in mid-2008, and they were busted while carrying out their plot. How much more evidence do you need? It's like the burglar of a convenience store who stares into the camera, burgles the store, gets caught, and pleads not guilty. I suspect that these 4 terrorists will get top notch legal representation and will plead not guilty. Millions of taxpayer money will be expended proving a fact. That's the problem folks.
I appreciate our fundamental right to legal representation in criminal trials. Everyone appreciates how John Adams bravely took up the legal representation of the British redcoats responsible for the Boston Massacre. He was lambasted and called a traitor. The redcoast (kids really), believe it or not, were provoked first. They were terrified of their lives in the face of an angry mob. Here, however, what possibly could be the terrorists' defense? The prosecutors could use the insanity card - the terrorists were insane and thus did not have the requisite intent necessary to be found guilty of a crime. Again, the meticulousness of the plot will surely destroy that argument if it's ever made.
Here's my suggestion. Create a second criminal standard: proof beyond ANY doubt. In other words, we're 100% sure you're guilty. This alternative standard will be available for those rare cases where it's absolutely clear to any reasonable person that the "suspect" is guilty. For instance, if you catch the suspect in the act. Or if the suspect is caught on video. Or DNA evidence. This standard would save millions of dollars a year in mindless representation of those who are clearly, beyond any doubt, guilty. (My assumption here is of course that the jurors will be unanimous in their guilty verdict.) It would lead to a more efficient and orderly judicial system. In turn, it would enhance the constitutional right of access to courts. And as importantly, it would give the over-worked and under-paid federal district court judges a much needed respite from frivolous criminal cases.
At your service,