In the nation’s first terrorism trial since Sept. 11, 2001, a Detroit jury yesterday convicted two men and acquitted two others in a verdict that jurors said was unaffected by the terror attacks.
The Detroit Free Press said it was a complex end to an extraordinary case that offered no clear winners, with some defense lawyers saying the verdict called into question the existence of terrorist cells in Detroit, and the Department of Justice proclaiming it a clear mandate to continue in its war on terror.
Three jurors who spoke to reporters in the courtroom after the noon verdict said the Bush administration’s agenda was not on their minds as they deliberated. “We totally separated 9/11 and the war on terrorism from what we were doing,” said one juror, a young woman in a white sleeveless T-shirt. Jurors remained anonymous under the court’s rules. “We all understood how important this case was, but we didn’t put those together at all when making the decision.”
The acquittals added to the chorus of critics who complain that the government was given sweeping powers to combat terrorism but has arrested mostly insignificant suspects. “People thought all you had to do was say ‘terrorism,’ and the jury would shut down and do everything the government wants it to do,” said Michael Greenberger of the University of Maryland Center for Health and Homeland Security. “But this shows there are no slam dunks for the government.”