Following the recent trial and acquittal of Casey Anthony on charges of murder, Republican Senator Mitch McConnell has taken the opportunity to argue against the use of civilian courts for trials of suspected terrorists. Speaking to Fox News, Senator McConnell said, “We just found with the Caylee Anthony case how difficult it is to get a conviction in a U.S. court.” Instead, he insists that military commissions are the proper venue for trying terror suspects.
The obvious implication is that the Casey Anthony verdict was a mistake, and that any court system that would render such a verdict is unable to handle accused terrorists. But why? The fact that she was found not guilty is not a problem with the court. The reason she was acquitted is because there wasn’t sufficient evidence to secure a conviction for murder. If there isn’t enough evidence, you can’t convict someone of a crime. It’s not that hard to understand.
Does he think it should be less difficult to get a conviction? Apparently so. Why else would he decry such a standard as being inappropriate for suspected terrorists? In essence, he’s demanding that they be tried under a system where they’re more likely to be found guilty. How is that justifiable? The very purpose of a trial is to determine whether the accused is guilty or not. So how can we rightfully decide that someone should be sent to a tribunal that’s more likely to find them guilty, before any determination of their guilt has been made?
After all, the point of a trial is not to find as many people guilty as possible regardless of the evidence. The purpose is to reach a fair, just, and well-supported verdict, whatever the outcome may be. But Senator McConnell’s recommendation immediately casts doubt upon the impartiality of these military trials. His argument suggests that they are not conducted with the intention of reaching a fair verdict. They are meant to reach a guilty verdict.
This effectively constitutes an admission that the government is seeking to hold these trials under weakened standards because they believe that they cannot meet the standards to secure a conviction in an American court. It’s not our court system that’s inadequate – it’s their case against these suspects. But if prosecutors wish to increase the likelihood of a finding of guilt, they must do so by making a stronger case, not by tilting the playing field in their favor. That’s just changing the rules when you don’t get your way.
This is a mockery of the judicial system. If it’s really that important that these suspects are found guilty, why maintain the facade of a trial at all? The senator has already argued that they should be subject to entirely different trials when they’ve merely been accused of certain crimes. When the intention is that they be found guilty no matter what, the only purpose of a trial is to try and lend legitimacy to a decision that was made ahead of time. That’s not what courts are for. Everyone deserves a fair trial, and Senator McConnell has no business deciding who can have justice, and who can only have injustice.