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Military vs. Civilian Court -- A Useless Debate

There is no rhyme or reason why the debate over where to try a terrorist ever became a “left vs. right” issue.

Yet there they are on television -- right-wing and left-wing pundits defending their position as if their very political identities depend upon the answer.

There’s only one consideration that bears weight on the issue of where to try a terrorist. And guess what? It is not political. It is purely legal, in fact mundanely legal:

Since military courts and civilian courts have different evidence rules, the people collecting the evidence have to know beforehand, in which court they will prosecute.

The only fact that matters in the choice of trial venue is which rules the “gatherers of evidence,” (that is the police, soldiers, agents) used when compiling the evidence.

If the people who compiled the evidence followed military rules while doing their job, and you want to win the case, then you’d better try the case in military court. If the evidence gatherers followed civilian rules, and you want to win the case, then you’d better try the case in civilian court.

Everything else is equal and immaterial. Federal tax dollars will be used in either case. The defendant will have a lawyer in either case. The defendant will have a right to attempt to win in either case. He’ll be jailed or executed using federal dollars in either case.

Some people may have a preference for what message, be it explicit or subliminal, we send to terrorists when we treat them as enemy combatants or criminal defendants. But that preference adds nothing to the goal of winning the prosecution, which is all that the gatherers of evidence truly care about.

Nothing about this issue lends itself to understanding the left/right dichotomy of Democrats and Republicans. The yardstick that defines something as “left” or “right” is purely economic: The extent of government control over economic production in society. Where to try a terrorist is pretty far removed from that.

Why then, from the solemn halls of congress to the fisticuffs of the Internet, are people firing across the left/right line in the sand over which legal venue is best to try a terrorist?

Perhaps Senator Evan Bayh’s remarks about leaving Congress apply here, too: America may be so corralled in partisan stables that we are picking fights where we don’t have to.
That certainly seems to be the case on terror trial venues.

Tommy De Seno is a writer and an attorney. Read more from  Tommy De Seno at JustifiedRight.com.

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Tommy De Seno contributes to ricochet.com and is the editor of www.JustifiedRight.com. An attorney and proud Catholic, he hails from Asbury Park, N.J.