As closing remarks came to an end and jury deliberations began in the trial of female Pakistani, Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, who faces 7 count assault and attempted murder charges in a New York Court room, for an alleged shooting incident in Ghazni Afghanistan, many spectators are wondering if it is possible for her to have a fair trial in post 9-11 America.
Although she is not charged with terrorism, the Prosecution was able to make that claim the underpinning of its entire case, due in large part to Judge Richard Berman’s decision to allow into evidence documents found in Dr. Siddiqui’s possession which include handwritten notes about “how to make a dirty bomb” and plans to cause “mass casualties” in the United States. The defense Attorney, Charles Swift said it was a legally “flawed” decision and will be the basis on an appeal if Dr. Siddiqui is not acquitted.
In their closing remarks the prosecution was able to spin the jury’s decision from a verdict on the guilt or innocence of Dr. Siddiqui, to the guilt or innocence of the 9 government eyewitnesses who say they heard or saw an M4 rifle shot on July 18, 2008 by Dr. Siddiqui. ‘For you to find Aafia Siddiqui not-guilty. That means you believe that the 9 Government witnesses who testified under oath stared you in the face and lied, men and women of the armed forces.’, they said.
The Prosecution then characterized Siddiqui as a highly intelligent yet shrewd and cunning manipulator who carefully “planned her defense”. He described how she “ducked” and “dodged” questions referring to her answers about the year she was born and her son who was found with her. During her testimony Dr. Siddiqui was asked if she was born in 1972. Her response was “If you say so” , then she went on to ask how can anyone recall when they were born. Later, she was asked by Jenna Dabbs if the boy she was with was her son. She again couldn’t answer directly claiming that she only saw pictures of him so she didn’t know for sure. Though many legal observers found her answers quite logical, it would be difficult for the jury to understand this without being informed of her claims of being in held in a secret prison for 5 years.
The prosecution then addressed the inconsistencies in the eyewitness testimonies as analogous to a car accident, in which different people would have different accounts of what happened prior to the accident as their “focus” would be on different things, but during the accident everyone’s focus would then “shift” to the sight of action and then perspectives would converge.
Later during the rebuttal phase of the closing, the prosecution argued that the inconsistencies were proof that the accounts were truthful. “They didn’t get together” and make sure their stories matched. “There was no grand conspiracy to convict this woman.” If they wanted to do that “why didn’t they simply plant some evidence” at the crime scene, they argued.
The Prosecution was responding to the closing remarks made by the defense in which Linda Moreno argued that the ‘bond” between soldiers on the battlefield who must “protect each other” to survive , influenced the testimonies of the government witnesses. She pointed out that their testimonies not only conflicted with each other’s but with their own earlier signed statements.
Moreno tried to get the jury to focus on the science and the forensic evidence. “there’s only one witness who’s impartial” and who “doesn’t have a dog in this fight”, and that is the room she said, the 26 X 12 ft room, 300 square feet with 10-20 people. She reminded the jury of the complete lack of physical evidence, no bullets, casings, bullet holes, gun shot residue. No one else was hurt except Aafia Siddiqui in this small crowded room where the M4 rifle allegedly went off. She responded to the government claim that the Afghans took the evidence, by pointing out that they (the Afghans) were the ones who alerted the Americans to her presence in the first place.
The defense was also able to dismiss the only piece of physical evidence submitted by the prosecution. This was the picture of the two holes in the wall which they claimed were caused by the firing of the M4 rifle by Siddiqui. Moreno then replayed a video submitted into evidence last week that showed a press conference held before the U.S. soldiers arrived, in the same room where the incident allegedly occurred, displaying the same two holes that the prosecution argued were certainly bullet holes. Moreno then took the jury back to science and the defense expert, a former NASA scientist, who testified “with scientific certainity” that they were in fact not bullet holes as the prosecution alleged.
In response to the argument that Linda Moreno made that “science” is the only imprtial witness in a case, the prosecution retorted that “science doesn’t have all the answers” and its “not where you need to look”. They then once again went back to the documents allegedly found in her possession as proof of her “intent” to “kill Americans”. In fact, the Prosecution’s closing remarks had more references to the “documents” describing terrorist acts against Americans, than throughout the entire trial. Moreno responded to this by saying, “they’re trying to scare you. But that “Fear has no place in this trial. Fear has no place in America”
During instructions the Judge once again advised the jury that Dr. Siddiqui, like all other criminal defendants, must be presumed innocent, and can only be found guilty if they decide that the government has proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt.