Justice American Style…A Tale of Three Accused Women
By El-Hajj Mauri' Saalakhan
A comparative analysis of the criminal cases involving three young women, two Americans and one Pakistani…we visit the cases of Amanda Knox, Casey Anthony, and Dr. Aafia Siddiqui as they reveal just how arbitrary and capricious "justice" can be in the U.S. legal system, and how conceptually flawed it can be in the collective mind of the American people (generally speaking). These three cases also reveal, in very graphic detail, the role that race, class, gender, religion and politics often play in the pursuit of justice in the western hemisphere.
Amanda Knox was prosecuted and convicted in Italy (along with her Italian lover and an African immigrant) for the brutal murder of another young female foreign exchange student. Knox received a sentence of 26 years as a result. Now via the automatic appeals process in European law (a superior quality, in my view, to American law), and the recent decision by an appellate judge to allow an independent review of key forensic evidence that was used to convict her - because the evidence was reportedly contaminated by being mishandled by Italian investigators - Knox has a good chance of winning release in the near future. (If I were a betting man, I would wage it all on my belief that Ms. Knox will be "legally" cleared and repatriated back to America sooner than later.)
Casey Anthony, a young woman from Florida, was charged in the death of her own child, Caylee Anthony. Despite the damning evidence against her, Anthony was recently found not guilty of the most serious charges in the murder indictment, and convicted only for giving false information to the law enforcement officers who investigated the case. Anthony has now been released to an undisclosed location, and reportedly stands to make a fortune when ever she decides to "tell her story."
Dr. Aafia Siddiqui is a Pakistani national, and committed Muslim woman, who came to the United States at the age of 18 for university study. She excelled academically at the University of Houston, MIT, and Brandeis University. She also distinguished herself as a young leader of the Muslim student organization(s) to which she belonged, and engaged in praiseworthy charitable work in the greater Boston area. Aafia would later become a person of suspicion (post 9/11), return home to Pakistan, and eventually become a target of a rendition operation (along with her three young children - ages six, four, and six months) in March of 2003. After five years of secret detention and torture, Aafia would mysteriously re-emerge in a weakened and disheveled state in Afghanistan; she would be shot and seriously injured while awaiting re-interrogation; and soon after be brought back to the United States, in 2008, to eventually stand trial (two years later) for allegedly "attempting to murder U.S. personnel" (FBI and soldiers) in Afghanistan in July 2008. While Amanda Knox and Casey Anthony (young, white, non-Muslim females) became "tabloid darlings," whose trials played out in the public sphere like Reality TV dramas, the trial of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui was shrouded under a cloak of near anonymity within the United States - despite the presence of a significant number of reporters in the courtroom each day of the trial. Both Knox and Anthony misled investigators (aka, repeatedly lied) during their interrogations, while Aafia was forthright from start to finish.
Both Knox and Anthony initially tried to shift responsibility for the crime that they were accused of committing on to an innocent person, and both had strong circumstantial evidence against them. In Siddiqui's case both the material and circumstancial evidence were strongly in her favor; it was the government's star witnesses that perjured themselves on the witness stand during the trial (although they were never charged with perjury)! Casey Anthony received an extreme presumption of innocence from a jury that saw a young white female who was facing the death penalty, if convicted. (I predict that the presumption of innocence principle will strongly kick in, post conviction, based on the alleged contamination of evidence, in the appeals process for Amanda Knox.) And while Ms. Anthony had a fair and impartial jurist to preside over her case, Judge Belvin Perry, Aafia Siddiqui had just the opposite. U.S. District Judge Richard Berman was openly biased against Dr. Siddiqui from start to finish. Anthony's jury was sequestered in a hotel, cutoff from the outside world; while Dr. Siddiqui's should have been! The jury in Aafia's case left the courthouse each day, and were continually exposed to the highly prejudicial, government-fed local media reports that contaminated the court of public opinion; reports that were so unfair and poisonous that they made any prospect for an impartial deliberation process almost impossible. Anthony's attorneys were given a lot of latitude in their defense of their client; while Siddiqui's attorneys were hamstrung (and in the opinion of some observers, allowed themselves to be hamstrung) to such an extent, that the missing fives years of her secret detention were made off limits during the trial! While Casey Anthony is a free woman (relatively speaking); and Amanda Knox - who has benefited from a growing defense lobby, and American press coverage that has been primarily positive - may soon be a free woman; Dr. Aafia Siddiqui (who is not accused of harming anyone!) received a sentence of 86 years on September 23, 2010, and is now being confined at a notorious institution (known as Carswell) on a military base in Fort Worth, Texas. The well known peace activist, Cindy Sheehan, made a provocative observation regarding the outcome of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui case, not long after her sentencing:
"Even if Dr. Siddiqui did shoot at the Americans, reflect on this. Say this case was being tried in Pakistan under similar circumstances for an American woman named Dr. Betty Brown who was captured and repeatedly tortured and raped by the ISI. Here in the states that woman would be a hero if she shot at her captors, not demonized and taken away from her life and her children. I believe Dr. Aafia Siddiqui is a political prisoner and now the political bogey-woman for two US regimes."