The Bush Administration and Due Process

The remarks this week by Charles D. Stimson, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs at the Pentagon, should cause outrage inside the Bush Administration and cost Mr. Stimson his job. According to a New York Times report Mr. Stimson said he was “dismayed that lawyers at many of the nation’s top firms were representing prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and that the firms’ corporate clients should consider ending their business ties.”

The remarks of Mr. Stimson are prejudicial and an affront to the rule of law. Due process requires that these inmates be treated as if they are innocent until they are proven guilty. It also demands they have adequate counsel and that their lawyers present the strongest defense possible.

Mr. Stimson’s language would not surprise me coming from an average American citizen who knows little about the law, but it’s deeply disturbing coming from a Pentagon official. Not only did he suggest these firms’ clients consider ending their business ties but he–and the Wall Street Journal–named the firms.

Lawyers must defend bad guys, even guilty ones. That’s the beauty of our justice system. Everyone is entitled to a strong defense. The burden is on the accuser. It’s better to have bad guys running around the streets than good guys behind bars. If the prosecutors in the cases against these detainees don’t think they have sufficient evidence to convict against good lawyers they should release the detainees, apologize, and provide financial compensation and asylum.

1 Comment

  1. People are too quick to judge. Too often biases, prejudices, and emotions get involved. I am reminded of the movie “Twelve Angry Men” about a jury’s deliberation on a capital murder case. Eleven of the twelve jurors with various preconceptions saw it as an open-and-shut case and voted “guilty.” You’re right Brent…the burden of proof is on the prosecutor.

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