Posted in Community Voices, Media Monitoring, tagged anonymous jury, Benjamin Weiser, classified information, material support, media, plea bargain, solitary confinement, Special Administrative Measures, Syed Fahad Hashmi on May 3, 2010 |
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Dear Mr. Weiser,
I am a third year law student at City University of New York School of Law, as well as a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism (’02). I have been following the Syed Fahad Hashmi case over the past few months, and I am writing because I found that your article, “Ex-Brooklyn College Student Admits Conspiring to Help Al Qaeda” omitted several crucial pieces of information that would have allowed a reader to understand Fahad Hashmi’s case in context.
First, your article does not make clear that Mr. Hashmi has been in solitary confinement for nearly three years, an extraordinary measure for the government to take pre-trial. Many American citizens would be shocked to hear that this kind of detention is being justified as an “administrative” measure. You also did not mention that Mr. Hashmi was unable to see classified information that the government had planned to use against him. The use of classified information continues to raise serious constitutional concerns about a defendant’s ability to adequately participate in his defense.
I am also curious why your article left out the news that you had reported the day before, the judge’s granting of the government’s last-minute motion for an anonymous jury under extra security measures. The judge’s decision and the speculative basis on which it was granted was an unprecedented extension of the case law proscribing the extremely limited occasion on which anonymous juries are to be granted. There is good reason to be concerned that these measures would have prejudiced the jury. These factors were all highly relevant to the circumstances under which Mr. Hashmi accepted the plea bargain.
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On Tuesday April 27, Fahad Hashmi took a government plea bargain. He pleaded guilty to 1 count of conspiracy for allowing an acquaintance to store waterproof socks, ponchos and raincoats in his apartment. The government dropped the other 3 charges. Fahad made this decision after having served 3 long years in solitary confinement and one day after Judge Preska approved the government’s recent request for an anonymous jury with extra security measures. In addition to the use of secret evidence and indefinite solitary confinement in Fahad’s case, the move to have an anonymous jury raised already heightened concerns as to whether a fair trial was even possible. With sentencing to happen on June 7, Fahad faces a maximum of 15 years, as opposed to the 70 years he might have faced if he had been convicted on all 4 counts. With time already served (4 years total) and considerations for good behavior, Fahad could be out in less than 10 years. It is of note that on the eve of the trial the government was willing to shave 55 years off the potential sentence.
Today’s decision does not in any way detract from the importance of the work we’ve been doing and the civil rights and human rights issues that Fahad’s case has raised. The government’s use of Special Administrative Measures and the attacks on due process in “terrorism” cases like Fahad’s continue and cast a pall on the US justice system. For that reason, we plan to hold our usual vigil on Monday night outside the Metropolitan Correctional Center. We hope you will spread the word and join us.
We will be posting further thoughts and analysis on Fahad’s case and the attendant issues in the coming week.
CUNY 4 Fahad
Theaters Against War
Educators for Civil Liberties
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Posted in General Info, Trial Watch, tagged anonymous jury, fair trial, judicial process, media, pre-trial publicity, Sixth Amendment, Syed Fahad Hashmi, United States v. Ross, United States v. Stewart, voir dire on April 27, 2010 |
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Yesterday, in a ruling, Judge Preska granted the government’s eleventh-hour motion for an anonymous jury. The government requested three things with respect to the jury:
1) the potential jurors on the voir dire panel, and the jurors and alternates selected for the petit jury, not reveal their names, addresses, or places of employment;
2) during trial, the jurors be kept together during recesses and taken to or provided lunch as a group each by the United States Marshals Service; and
3) at the beginning and end of each trial day, the jurors be transported together by the United States Marshals Service between the courthouse and an undisclosed central location, at which they can assemble from, or leave for, their respective communities.
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Judge Preska’s ruling yesterday morning to deny Fahad access to a public jury is just another manifestation of the lack of due process in his trial, and will serve to enable the complicity of our judicial system in the abridgment of his rights as a citizen and human being. The motion says jurors, the very people deciding fate, should not be required to disclose their names, addresses or places of employment, and that they be kept under the watchful eyes of the U.S. Marshal Service. As William Fisher points out, the amount of privacy that the potential jurors are afforded when asked questioned raises the issue of the definition of “impartial jury.” Not to mention these types of legal proceedings are only used in rare instances, for seriously dangerous defendants such as the mobster John Gotti and the 1993 World Trade Center bomber. It creates in the minds of the jury that Fahad himself is dangerous even before the trial begins. Even by the government’s worst suspicions about Fahad, he nowhere meets the precedent for anonymous juries.
by Jamie Chosak
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The Center for Constitutional Rights was quick to issue a statement denouncing a recent government attempt to frighten the jury in the upcoming trial of Fahad Hashmi. In a clear attempt to criminalize those supportive of Hashmi and critical of the government’s handling of his case, the government motion filed this week requesting an “anonymous jury” conflates advocacy for Fahad’s civil and human rights with sympathy for “violent radical Islamic leanings”. The public support for Hashmi, which the government seems to fear, and in turn wants the jury to fear, consists of a wide range of voices, including the Center for Constitutional Rights, Educators for Civil Liberties, CUNY Law and other student groups, Theaters Against War, Council on American Islamic Relations -New York, Muslim Justice Initiative , as well as a growing number of concerned individuals and journalists. The actions many of these groups are advocating include encouraging people to attend the trial, writing letters of concern to the Attorney General, and gathering to hold vigil outside the Metropolitan Correctional Center where Fahad is being held.
The memorandum issued to Judge Preska this week states that the motion seeks to prevent the ” potential corruption of the judicial process”. Yet that is precisely what the requested measures, if granted, risk doing- by stoking the flames of fear and Islamophobia that already threaten to bias the jury pool. This in addition to the preemptive punitive measures Fahad has endured for nearly 3 years. As the Center for Constitutional Rights’ press release explains:
“The case against Fahad Hashmi in itself raises many red flags related to the violation of his rights, prosecutorial overreach under the material support statute, and the unduly punitive and restrictive special administrative measures under which he has been kept without trial for nearly three years. The government’s call for the jurors at his trial, which is set to begin next week, to be anonymous and kept under extra security because of the attention and political activism these issues have drawn to the case is a clear attempt to influence the jury by creating a sense of fear for their safety and to paint Mr. Hashmi as already guilty. Read the full statement here.
by Brian Pickett
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