In the Washington Times this morning, there is a AP story (it’s not really a report, more an ill-informed supposition) positing that a New York jury might very well spare the 9/11 bombers from the death penalty. AP reasons that “New York juries are [so] loath to impose the death penalty, even for terrorists,” that, ”in fact, a jury spared the lives of two Osama bin Laden followers a month after Sept. 11, while the World Trade Center’s ruins were still smoldering.”
It’s a bogus claim. The story does not mention the two “followers” by name, but it seems clear AP is referring to two of the bombers of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, Mohammed Daoud al-`Owhali and Kalfan Khamis Mohamed. The trial jury in Manhattan did deadlock on the death penalty — meaning they got life-imprisonment because a death verdict must be unanimous. But that happened in June and July 2001 (see here and here). We were over two months away from smoldering ruins.
I don’t think a civilian trial in New York City is a good idea either, and I think New York juries are a crapshoot. We’ve had great juries for terrorism cases (mine was), but Manhattan is also the place where Sayyid Nosair got acquitted of murdering Rabbi Meir Kahane — despite shooting him in front of dozens of people and being apprehended after a shoot-out/chase in possession of the gun proved to have killed Kahane. But whatever is to be deduced from all this, fictionalizing the record does not help.