Uncharitable conclusions

Yesterday the parties began their closing arguments in the prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation and its principals in federal district court in Dallas. The Investigative Project on Terrorism has posted an excellent report of the arguments here. The Dallas Morning News has an account here, the New York Times here, the Washington Post here, and the Los Angeles Times here. I assume that closing arguments continue today and that the court will then instruct the jury. Reader Steve Gossett sat in on the government’s closing argument yesterday and sent us the following report:

[Yesterday] afternoon I sat in the Dallas federal courthouse where I listened to the prosecutor present his closing arguments in the HLF trial. It was the second time I have attended the trial. Three weeks ago I spent an afternoon in the courtroom and listened to an FBI agent’s testimony regarding evidence that was being shown to the jury. My impression three weeks ago was that there was no way the jury will convict the defendants. The reasons were threefold:

  • The evidence being presented was a mountain of mind- numbing minutiae;
  • The prosecutor’s presentation style was boring, not engaging or energetic; and
  • It was extremely difficult to understand how the bits and pieces of evidence related to each other and to the crimes with which the defendants were being charged.
The prosecution rested at approximately 2:20 p.m. Though I left at the recess (prior to hearing any of the defense arguments) I am slightly optimistic that the jury may do something other than acquit. The prosecutor’s delivery was still less than dynamic and there were several times I saw at least one juror appear to nod off, however.
In the last 20 minutes the prosecutor revisited evidence that proved:

  • The defendants were working very close with known Hamas members;
  • The defendants knew that a law had been passed that made it a crime to send any money to Hamas, regardless of whether the money was to be used for humanitarian rather than military purposes.

The prosecutor showed several video clips of Hamas sponsored school functions with children dressed as fighters holding guns and sporting mock suicide vests. The jury appeared to watch these with great interest. The prosecutor then read from a transcript of a recording of one of the defendants, Shukri Abu Baker: “War is deception….” etc. (the quote is from page 13).
He concluded with “Do not lets these men deceive you.” I hope he succeeds.

I think this report is particularly valuable in highlighting the difficulties of the government’s burden in these terrorism cases that depend so greatly on the jury’s concerted attention to sometimes mind-numbing detail. The IPT report also highlights the government’s burden in enlisting the jury’s willingness to pierce the fog emitted by defendants’ counsel. Regardless of the trial’s outcome, the government’s case has shed light on the covert methods used by terrorist groups operating on our home turf, a point on which Joseph Myers elaborates here. We join Steve Gossett in wishing the government a successful conclusion to this important prosecution.
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