American Terrorism Trials: Prosecutorial and Defense Strategies

American Terrorism Trials: Prosecutorial and Defense Strategies

American Terrorism Trials: Prosecutorial and Defense Strategies

American Terrorism Trials: Prosecutorial and Defense Strategies

Synopsis

Since 1980, prosecutors and defense attorneys handling federal terrorism trials have developed politicized strategies and counter strategies unique to terrorism trials, and those strategies have had a significant impact on case outcomes. Moreover, case outcomes were positively impacted by proactive policy changes implemented in the wake of 9/11. Building on structural contextual theory and the hydraulic effect, Shields finds that when prosecutors rely less heavily on highly politicized prosecution strategies, conviction rates increased. In fact, his findings indicate that the more prosecutors politicize a case, the more likely the case goes to trial, increasing the odds of acquittal.

Excerpt

With the war on terrorism more than a decade old, scholars and critiques have written a great deal concerning the effectiveness of the Department of Justice, placing terrorism trials squarely under the lens of public scrutiny. That discussion has focused, in part, on conviction rates and prison sentences of suspected terrorists, but even on those narrow topics there is little consensus. With the implementation of the usa patriot Act, the housing of suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, and the prospect of military tribunals, public interest in the manner with which terrorist defendants were investigated, detained, and prosecuted, increased dramatically. Amid increased scrutiny, critiques have alleged prosecutorial misconduct (Detroit Free Press, 2006); witness coaching (NPR, 2006); and, unexpectedly, there were reports of communities demonstrating support for alleged terrorist defendants (Seattle Times, 2006).

In the years following the attacks of September 11, 2001, the Department of Justice published several articles reporting success in prosecuting terrorists (e.g., doj, 2006). Academics, politicians, and government officials challenged those claims, questioning the Justice Department’s definition of terrorism, and the accuracy of the government’s claims (e.g., gao, 2003; Eggen and Tate, 2005). Those criticisms continue (e.g., Turley 2011). Some researchers have found evidence that suggests the federal government’s approach after 9/11 was as successful in terrorism trials as in other federal cases (Greenberg, 2011). When compared to pre-9/11 conviction rates for terrorism trials, Shields (2008), noted an increase in post-9/11 conviction rates (See also. Jackson, 2010; and Smith, et al., 2012).

The previous decade also witnessed a significant increase in volume of alleged terrorist defendants who were prosecuted in federal courts, especially in the first three years following 9/11. Not only have I learned valuable information about the case outcomes and sentence . . .

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