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Embassy Bombing Verdict May Discourage More Civilian Trials

Publication Date: 
November 18, 2010
Business Week - Bloomberg
Patricia Hurtado, Edvard Pettersson and Joel Rosenblatt

Professor Jenny S. Martinez is featured in the following story on the prosecution of Guantanamo Bay inmates. Bloomberg reports:

The Obama administration may want to seek other ways to prosecute Guantanamo Bay inmates following a New York jury conviction of an alleged al-Qaeda bomber on only one of 285 counts in the 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in Africa that killed 224 people.

Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, 36, a Tanzanian citizen and the first detainee to face civilian trial, was found guilty yesterday in Manhattan federal court of conspiracy and cleared of all other charges, including 224 counts of murder stemming from the bombing of the embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya. Twelve U.S. citizens were among the dead in the near-simultaneous terrorist attacks.


The result “wasn’t a total disaster,” Jenny Martinez, a Stanford Law School professor, said in a phone interview. “If I were the prosecutors, I’d think it wasn’t everything we hoped for but it’s longer than any sentences that the people who have been convicted by the military commissions have gotten.”

A New York University study of 828 “terror related” prosecutions in civilian courts since Sept. 11, 2001, found an 89 percent conviction rate in those cases, Martinez said. She also cited a Human Rights First study finding that there was a 91 percent conviction rate in 119 terrorism-related cases since the 2001 attacks.

“Contrast that with the military commissions which have produced five convictions” with only three of those individuals still in custody, Martinez said.