|Subject:||Moussaoui did not commit a capital offense.|
|Date:||Mar 14 2006 3:32P|
Perhaps, he didn’t commit an offense at all. Dahlia focuses on the federal conspiracy law, and only tangentially refers to the two far more compelling legal arguments for why he cannot be sentenced to death, and possibly why his guilty plea should not stand. Duty and the 5th Amendment.
First, duty. Person A generally does not have a legal duty to report that Person B is going to commit a crime or is committing a crime. (there are exceptions for mental health professionals, and even lawyers aren’t bound by attorney client privilege if a client says that he is going to commit a crime) In other words, if I’m sitting at the bar, and the guy next to me says "I’m going to shoot my old lady tonight, here’s the gun" I have no legal duty to report that to anyone. Whether or not I have a moral duty is a subject for the faith-based fray, not for this one. However, the law is pretty clear that I don’t have a legal duty to do anything. So, Moussaoui had no legal duty to report anything to anyone, and failure to do so is not a crime.
Second, the 5th Amendment. Conspirators get caught all the time. Their statements to the police are often used against the other co-conspirators. However, they cannot be forced to a) talk or b) tell the truth. Any answer other than that violates the 5th Amendment’s prohibition against forced self-incrimination. Caselaw says that not only can you not be forced to incriminate yourself, but you can’t be punished later if you didn’t incriminate yourself. But wait, you say, there is a difference between refusing to answer and affirmatively lying, shouldn’t that make a difference? No. Self-incrimination means just that. Self-incrimination. If telling the truth requires you to incriminate yourself, then you can’t be forced to do it, and you can’t be punished for doing it.
This prosecution has been about overreaching from day 1. Moussaoui is mentally disturbed, to be sure, but he is not guilty of a capital offense, and possibly not of any offense at all.