Thursday, December 28, 2006

Is the end near?

Two legal dramas appear to be winding their way towards a conclusion. The first is the trial of Iraqi dictator and tyrant Saddam Hussein. The genocidal monster who once kept a bust of Joseph Stalin on his desk and was said to be a student of his method of governance was convicted and sentenced to death in early November. His case has since been appealed to a special court with power to review all capitol sentences. A couple days go that court affirmed the death sentence and ordered it carried out within thirty days. Reports now coming out of Iraq strongly suggest that Hussein may be hanged before the new year.

For the record I am not a fan of capitol punishment. It's something which I think we as a country could live without. However we have never had to deal with anyone in Saddam's class of criminality before either. This is a man whose crimes put him in a league quite apart from even your more oppressive dictators. To say that he was an evil tyrant would be a gross understatement. In this case I think his execution may be necessary for the welfare of Iraqi society and also to once and for all crush any hopes on the part of Baathists for some sort of restoration. There can be no serious doubt except on the part of moral abolitionists that Saddam deserves the gallows. Though I will not celebrate any hanging, neither in this case will I shed tears. Rather I will commend his soul to the mercy of God.

The second drama is in Durham North Carolina. The ongoing railroading of three Duke University lacrosse players appears to be falling apart. Last week District Attorney Mike Nifong was forced to drop rape charges after the alleged victim changed her story yet again. However his evidence has not increased. The remaining charges are still based almost exclusively on the word of the alleged victim whose testimony is likely to be subject to a crushing cross examination if she ever takes the stand. Then there is the issue of a highly improper identification by photo lineup that violates all manner of police procedures and is likely to be suppressed. If that goes she will likely be barred from identifying any of the defendants in court. The next item is DA Nifong's attempt to withhold exculpatory evidence from the defense. This is such an egregious matter that the judge could impose sanctions on the DA and maybe even dismiss the case out of hand at a hearing scheduled for February.

However it might not make it to February. The North Carolina State Bar Association has now entered the fray by opening an investigation into Nifong for professional misconduct. My guess is that this is just the opening salvo of what could become a serious probe into his conduct of this case. There are serious hints that the Feds are looking at a civil rights investigation of the prosecution. Given these developments its very possible Nifong may be forced to recuse himself from the case due to an obvious conflict of interest. I can not imagine anyone else going forward with a case that is taking on water faster than the Titanic. My best guess is that this case will be dropped before the scheduled hearing in February.

However that is not likely to be the end of this matter. I suspect (and hope) that the three defendants will pursue whatever remedies they have in civil court for the injury they have suffered from this out of control DA.


Anonymous said...

Capital punishment can be quite merciful as is clear from Saddam's current statements. As Dr. Johnson said, it clears the mind. As I understand it, it has always been a justifiable part of tradition. He who bears the sword. I don't think modern latitudinarianism has changed that. We need more fear of God rather than less.

Steve Hayes said...

Hanging Saddam Hussein will be as good for Iraq as hanging P.W. Botha would have been good for South Africa.

Wordsmyth said...

Saddam Hussein was to be tried for other crimes as well. Now the victims of his other atrocities and their loved ones will never have their day in court. I was hoping that the other trials would actually be fair rather than seriously marred by error, assassinations, and questionable legitimacy like the first trial. If conducted properly, those trials would have served as valuable precedent.