A Veteran Defender Is Chosen for Guantánamo’s 9/11 Trial

This text was produced in partnership with the Pulitzer Middle on Disaster Reporting.

WASHINGTON — A number one protection lawyer who makes a speciality of dying penalty instances has been chosen to characterize one of many 5 males accused of plotting the Sept. 11, 2001, assaults earlier than a army tribunal at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, overcoming a key impediment to the battle crimes trial.

However the nationwide disaster over the coronavirus pandemic and the sudden, latest resignation of the army choose overseeing the trial nonetheless stay as hurdles to transferring forward within the advanced conspiracy case.

The lawyer, David I. Bruck, will characterize Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a Yemeni accused of organizing a cell of males primarily based in Hamburg, Germany, who have been among the many 19 hijackers who seized 4 passenger planes and slammed them into the World Commerce Middle, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania area. Almost 3,000 folks have been killed within the assaults.

Mr. Bruck has dealt with several high-profile death penalty cases, together with representing Dylann S. Roof, who killed nine black churchgoers in South Carolina in June 2015; Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of many brothers who carried out the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013; and Susan Smith, a girl in South Carolina who drowned her two younger sons in 1994. Mr. Roof and Mr. Tsarnaev are on federal dying row.

Mr. Bruck, who has by no means been to the Navy base at Guantánamo Bay or practiced regulation in a army court docket, has not but met or spoken with Mr. bin al-Shibh, essentially the most risky of the defendants within the capital case whose lead defendant is Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. Mr. bin al-Shibh is held at a maximum-security prison called Camp 7, which doesn’t allow attorneys to talk with the prisoners they characterize by videolink or phone.

The chief protection counsel for army commissions, Brig. Gen. John G. Baker, stated he selected Mr. Bruck on Monday to succeed James P. Harrington, who had represented Mr. bin al-Shibh since arraignment in May 2012 and is leaving the case for well being causes.

By regulation, every defendant charged in a dying penalty case on the Guantánamo army commissions is entitled to a certified capital protection lawyer, referred to as a discovered counsel. The following step is for the overseer of the Workplace of Army Commissions, Christian L. Reismeier, a retired rear admiral, to formally rent Mr. Bruck as a contractor on the federal rate of $195 an hour.

Colleagues describe Mr. Bruck, 70, as courtly and soft-spoken in addition to a great listener.

Robert Dunham, the chief director of the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center, known as him “one of many pioneering capital protection attorneys of the fashionable period.”

Mr. Bruck has been defending capital instances at trial since 1980. He helped broaden the physique of knowledge a sentencing jury can take into account at dying penalty trials by Supreme Court docket instances. And he has skilled new generations of capital defenders, and helped authorized groups which have inadequate assets by his authorized clinic on the Washington and Lee law school in Virginia and as a founding member of the Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel.

In February, Mr. Harrington, 75, citing health problems, obtained permission to depart the case from the choose, Col. W. Shane Cohen.

Then final month, Colonel Cohen stated he would retire from the Air Force for “the very best pursuits of my household.” He leaves the case on April 24. No successor has been chosen.

The departure of Colonel Cohen leaves unresolved the query of whether or not Mr. bin al-Shibh ought to be tried individually at a later date due to the appreciable time it should take his new lawyer to organize.

Basic Baker famous that though Mr. Bruck had agreed to characterize Mr. bin al-Shibh, Mr. Bruck will want “important time to meet up with seven years’ value of litigation.” He cited a whole bunch of authorized motions, tens of 1000’s of pages of listening to transcripts and a whole bunch of 1000’s of pages of potential trial proof.

Amongst capital protection attorneys, Mr. Bruck is extensively recognized for arguing Skipper v. South Carolina earlier than the Supreme Court docket in 1986. The landmark ruling stated that proof of a convict’s habits in jail after seize and potential for future dangerousness, primarily based on testimony from psychological well being consultants and jail guards, are related to a choose or jury deciding whether or not to condemn a convict to dying.

Legal professionals for a number of the defendants within the Sept. 11 trial have stated the prisoners have been so broken by torture in C.I.A. detention within the years earlier than their switch to Guantánamo in 2006 that they’d not be a risk to anyone ought to they be imprisoned for all times.

The choose initially set a trial date of January 2021 however postponed the beginning as a result of the coronavirus has pressured the Protection Division to ban most journey and workplace work. The following pretrial hearings are scheduled for late July, after Ramadan.

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