Jose Padilla, the American arrested in Chicago on suspicion of being part of a “dirty bomb” plot has been convicted in federal court of aiding terrorism. The jury deliberated for only a day and half, which would seem to indicate an acquittal, but surprisingly all three co-defendants were found guilty on all charges. The government has initially charged him with the dirty bomb plot and held him as an enemy combatant, but later transferred his case to the civilian justice system to avoid his case ending up in front of the Supreme Court.
This case gives ammunition for both sides in the debate over terror suspect procedure as Orin Kerr notes. This is a victory for the government in that they got a conviction after only a short deliberation, but it’s a loss in that Padilla was not tried in a specialized terrorism court under relaxed rules of evidence.
What’s interesting is that the jury was so quick to convict, even though the government’s case was largely circumstantial. The most damning evidence was an al-Qaeda “application form” filled out by Padilla in English, Spanish and Arabic. This document was recovered in Aghanistan and had Padilla’s fingerprints on it.
This case doesn’t settle the issue of how best to fight homegrown terrorism, but it does ensure that Padilla will never again be fighting on the side of al-Qaeda — the judge is likely to impose a life sentence without the possibility of parole, meaning that Padilla won’t become a martyr or a jihadi warrior — but will spend the rest of his life forgotten in a SuperMax prison.