|Paramilitary heads are escorted by Colombian policemen from a maximum security jail to Rionegro airport before their extradition to the U.S. to face drug trafficking charges on May 13, 2008. (Raul Arboleda/AFP/Getty Images)|
Monday, September 13, 2010
THE STRANGE CASE OF THE DISAPPEARING CRIMINAL CASES
Think the only secret trials the U.S. is conducting is at Guantanamo? Think again.
Numerous decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court and a bevy of federal appeals courts have long held that there is a strong presumption that trials - both civil and criminal - should be held in public.
But too often they are not and the numbers are growing.
Were not just talking about Patriot Act sort of hanky panking. Judges can seal trials if they decide they should...and they do...thousands of times per year citing national security material, an ongoing government investigation, vulnerable witnesses or victims.
Prosecutors must get permission from a higher up before they can request a sealed trial. Whoopie, I bet that's tough.
We think of secret trials being used to get folks out of the way quietly who the authrities fear (and that is certainly one use, and a scary one).
However, there are other nefarious reasons as the following story from ProPbulica reveals.
COLOMBIAN PARAMILITARIES EXTRADITED TO U.S., WHERE CASES ARE SEALED
by Jennifer Janisch and Oriana Zill de Granados, Thirteen/WNET, and Chisun Lee, ProPublica Sep. 11, 12:43 a.m
A version of this story appeared in the Washington Post.