Thursday, March 01, 2007

Jose Padilla: nondelusionally paranoid?

Dahlia Lithwick has a great article in Slate this week on the hearing to determine if Jose Padilla is mentally fit to stand trial. Here are a few paragraphs from the piece:
That's why it's worth keeping an eye on the proceedings this week in Miami as federal Judge Marcia Cooke tries to determine whether the alleged "dirty bomber"—scratch that—alleged "apartment bomber"—um, scratch that—alleged terror conspirator Jose Padilla is mentally fit to stand trial. What the prosecution now claims almost defies credulity. They contend that Padilla is wholly unharmed—after spending 1,307 days in a 9-foot-by-7-foot cell in a Navy brig in South Carolina, where he says he was, among other things, deprived of sleep, light, sight, sound, shackled in stress positions, injected with "truth serum," and isolated for extended stretches of time. It's better than that. According to the government, Padilla is faking his craziness.
The hearing is only to determine whether Padilla is fit to stand trial, not whether the abuse was grounds to dismiss the trial (that will come later).
So, what happened to Padilla in those many months of quasi-abusive solitary confinement is legally relevant only if the court determines that he is, right now, too damaged to understand the charges against him or aid in his defense. And not surprisingly, it has come down to a battle of the experts. As of today, two defense experts have testified that Padilla suffers from shattering post-traumatic stress disorder, facial tics, and Stockholm syndrome, which has him protecting the government and fearing his own attorneys. (He has been described by some prison staff as behaving like "a piece of furniture.")

The prosecution's expert, on the other hand, vows that Padilla's mental health problems are relatively minor and in no way impede his ability to stand trial. (So far my very favorite line from the various psychological evaluations of Padilla is this unironic note: "He does believe that he is being persecuted by the government, and he does demonstrate some paranoia about the government, but this does not appear to be delusional.") The prosecution's other claims range from laughable to horrifying: Padilla is alternately "malingering," faking so he doesn't have to stand trial; or his mental illness is a result of his own history of drug abuse; or he is clearly capable of assisting his lawyers, because he managed to tell them he'd been abused in confinement. Most unnervingly, they assert that the abuse he suffered—which they can't quite bring themselves to deny—is "irrelevant to the criminal case against him."


Blogger Comrade O'Brien said...

You may be interested in our Orwellian protest of the Military Commissions Act, under which the US is able to detain Padilla indefinitely. Learn more at

9:13 AM  
Blogger michael said...

Thanks for the comment. This looks like an worthy project.

11:22 AM  

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