Cheap shots at a system of justice

CHEAP SHOTS AT A SYSTEM OF JUSTICE…. Yesterday, Wolf Blitzer interviewed retired Army Col. John Galligan, who is representing Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, who is believed to be responsible for last week’s massacre at Fort Hood. Most of the interview was pretty standard — they talked about Hasan’s condition, his state of mind, whether he’s aware of his surroundings, etc.

Things got a little more awkward when Blitzer said “a lot of folks” wonder how a decorated, 30-year military veteran can “represent someone accused of mass murder.” Galligan’s answer seemed pretty compelling. (TPM has the video.)

“Wolf, I will tell you what I have told consistently anyone who asks that same question, and that is as a military — former military JAG officer, former military judge, former prosecutor, former defense counsel, and now currently actively involved, also, in the civilian practice of criminal defense work, I fully appreciate the importance of ensuring that everybody has a fair trial. I think that’s particularly important when it applies to anyone in uniform, officer or enlisted.

“Their profession is to defend us. We owe it to them as either fellow service members or as U.S. citizens to ensure that we properly defend them.

“The rights that I’m asking be accorded to Major Hasan are the rights that service members live and die for. Let’s just make sure we don’t deprive them in his case.”

Right. This is American civil liberties 101. No matter how heinous the crime, literally every American is entitled to a fair trial. Galligan added, “I’d just encourage all of the listeners on this program and others to join me in ensuring that Major Hasan has a fair and impartial hearing in any forum that ultimately may be assigned to determine the facts in this case.”

To which Blitzer responded, “I’m sure he will get a much fairer hearing than those 13 Americans who were brutally gunned down the other day.”

Look, I realize this is an emotional situation — the horrific Fort Hood shootings shocked the nation, and nerves are still raw. It hasn’t even been a week since the monstrous tragedy unfolded. It’s understandable, to a certain extent, for a certain primal instinct to kick in, and suggest that we should dispense with all the niceties of a fair and just system that leads to credible, legitimate results. The victims didn’t get a chance; maybe the suspect shouldn’t either.

But those are the values of lynch mobs. It’s not who we are. Blitzer ought to know better.

Galligan was given a chance to respond: “[T]he difficulty that I have, of course, is when people, in discussions with me, with references like the one that you just made, in the criminal justice field we often are dealing with victims. And the victims, oftentimes, are more than just those that are named on a charge sheet or in an indictment. We want to make sure that everybody watching the process unfold feels comfortable and confident that it’s going to be fair and just. And the minute we try to isolate certain cases in that process and say, ‘Well, we can make a judgment before the trial, or assumptions before the trial,’ I think leads to the wrong result.”

Such an explanation shouldn’t even be necessary.

Josh Marshall added, “I was surprised and almost nauseated to see Wolf Blitzer go in for the most stereotypical, craven and showboating knock-about of the retired JAG officer…. It’s not about ideology certainly or even theories of what’s right or not about the law. But we know bullying and pompous showboating when we see it.”

Blitzer ought to be embarrassed.