Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Legal Jeopardy in National Security Trials

via Eve Tushnet, a tale of a Kafkaesque episode in the trial of a CIA-employed scam artist:

...I am able to recount the details of this event because the assistant federal public defender was me, handling the case in the mid-1980s. To recap the hard-to-believe basics of the situation: in the middle of a trial, I was charged with three criminal offenses on the grounds that the questions I asked in open court prompted the witnesses to disclose classified information. At the time of these supposed offenses, the prosecutors objected neither to the questions nor the answers, and neither they nor the judge gave any indication of a problem until the moment the charges were lodged against me. So there I was, still handling the ongoing trial, but now also facing my own trial to begin 30 days after the current trial was over. Despite my compromised position, I was not allowed by the judge to withdraw as defense counsel, and our request for a mistrial in the ongoing case was denied. I continued to examine witnesses from the CIA, but now with pending criminal charges hanging over my head, and a real prospect of more to come.

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