I feel like a media geek, covering the coverage of the news. There is a story in what gets covered and what doesn't, what level of detail and background is included, etc. This federal trial has been largely ignored in the Boston papers, although the Worcester Telegram did follow it closely. Yesterday's article in the Worcester Telegram just gave the basics that were in the AP story, nothing new. I hope Lee Hammel continues to cover the case. Shelley Murphy of the Boston Globe got a new angle in her article today: Norman Zalkind, the defendants' lawyer says he will appeal. He cites a concern with juror bias:
"They (defense lawyers) urged jurors not to be swayed by any unpopular political views espoused by their clients, and also raised questions about jury bias shortly before yesterday's verdict, citing a question one juror sent to the judge during deliberations."
"The juror's note asked whether he could consider the 'emotional impact' that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks had on society when deciding whether to convict the defendants. He was told he could not."
Judge Saylor interviewed the juror, and determined that he wasn't biased. A little more context on that question demonstrates that the jury member had empathy for the defendant, not bias against him. Why would that be grounds for appeal?
"In a telephone interview last night, Jean Ngarambe, of Salem, the juror who wrote the note, said he didn't have any bias as a result of Sept. 11, 2001, but was trying to determine whether he could consider the emotional impact on Muntasser, who was born in Libya and is a Muslim. He said he believed Muntasser's contention that he lied to the FBI in 2003 about his earlier travel to Afghanistan because in the post-9/11 world, he feared that he might be sent to the US detention camp at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
" 'He had a good reason to lie,' said Ngarambe, who added that he would have acquitted Muntasser of lying if the judge had allowed them to consider his motivation and emotional state."
Well, no, Muntasser didn't have a good reason to lie. No Americans were being sent to Guantanamo, although lawyers and defendants love to raise that bogeyman. I don't like hearing that someone would acquit a defendant because he "thought he had a good reason to lie." You lied to a federal agent or you didn't. Right is right, wrong is wrong, lying is wrong, and we are a nation of laws. Nonetheless, the juror was sympathetic to Muntasser, not prejudiced against Muslims. The lawyers will try to find some grounds for appeal, but this ain't it. Judge Saylor IV has been fair, but he's not let the defense walk over him either.
Good follow-up by Shelley Murphy on this aspect of the case.