Prosecutors who will try the 9/11 plotters in New York face a “Mission Impossible” task of winning death sentences for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and his henchmen, says the New York Daily News. Veteran federal prosecutors – including those working in counterterrorism – were shocked by Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision on a civilian trial in Manhattan for the jihadists. That’s because in the feds’ few past tries at the death penalty for foreign terrorists, they lost. New York juries are seen as among the least likely to agree – unanimously, as the law requires – on execution.
The Sept. 11 attacks that killed 2,973 people – most a few blocks from the federal courthouse – could be the exception. “If New Yorkers were ever going to do it, this is the case,” said Karen Greenberg of New York University’s Center on Law and Security. The last time a Manhattan federal jury faced such a choice was in 2001, when jurors spared two men convicted in the 1998 bombings of twoU.S. embassies in Africa that killed 224 people. Frances Townsend, an ex-New York federal prosecutor who was President George W. Bush”s top counterterror adviser, said death verdicts this time aren’t out of the question, but the odds are against it. She also maintained life without parole at “Supermax” could better service justice. Mohammed has said he wants to be martyred by execution, she noted, and, “Florence would be much worse for them.”