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Jose Padilla is back in the news

September 20, 2011

Update: From this excellent piece by Glen Greenwald on Padilla’s new sentencing hearing.

America is plagued by a two-tiered justice system in which political and financial elites enjoy virtually absolute immunity for even the most egregious of crimes, while ordinary Americans (and especially fully stigmatized ones like Padilla) are subject with few defenses to the world’s largest and one of its most merciless systems of punishment.

Here are previous posts about him.

Padilla was sentenced to 17 years in prison years ago. His sentence was appealed by the US government. A new sentencing was recently ordered by a federal appeals court in Atlanta that suggested that the current punishment was too light.

On the government’s cross-appeal, the majority said the sentencing judge “attached little weight to Padilla’s extensive criminal history, gave no weight to his future dangerousness, compared him to criminals who were not similarly situated and gave unreasonable weight to the conditions of his pre-trial confinement.

Emphasis mine.

You can read about the whole thing here.

I wanted to again point out the “pre-trial confinement conditions” — a phrase that makes it sound like Padilla was kept overnight at the county jail. Instead, he was held for three years in a secret military brig without being charged with anything. During this time he was isolated, threatened, beaten and tortured. In 2006, the New York Times did an impressive job reporting on him.

Dr.Angela Hegarty is the director of forensic psychiatry who examined Padilla. This was her assessment. (Via)

“It is my opinion that as the result of his experiences during his detention and interrogation, Mr. Padilla does not appreciate the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him, is unable to render assistance to counsel, and has impairments in reasoning as the result of a mental illness, i.e., post-traumatic stress disorder, complicated by the neuropsychiatric effects of prolonged isolation,” Dr. Hegarty said in an affidavit for the defense.

I want to link to just one more article from years ago about why Obama officials and lawyers just had to defend their own against Padilla’s lawsuit on these “pre-trial confinement conditions”. There’s a lot of griping and hand-wringing from the current government about providing legal defense to war criminals. All meaningless posturing.


A former lawyer in Bush’s White House, Brad Berenson, said he expects the new Obama officials not only to defend against the suits but to win them. “There are just all kinds of doctrines that protect government officials, even when they’re wrong,” he said. “The dirty little secret here is that the United States government has enduring institutional interests that carry over from administration to administration and almost always dictate the position the government takes.”

Considering this, there should be very little surprise that a federal court thought there was too much emphasis on the illegal activities of the national political and judiciary machine.


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