Lawyers: Would you defend Osama bin Laden?

Non-lawyers are welcome to participate, but please try to do so from the point of view of a lawyer, with the ethical obligations thereof.

Captain America, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Kara Thrace, Batman, and Cowboy Bill Watts joined forces, and captured Osama bin Laden. Watts, being Watts, proceeded to beat his ass, but Captain America and Batman objected, and then Kara distracted Watts with her…wiles…and now Osama’s in custody on U.S. soil.

He’s charged with numerous counts of terrorism, murder, conspiracy, and being a mean ornery sonofabitch.

The Watcher suddenly appears in your home, and <technomystic babble> lets you see exactly what happened. There is absolutely no doubt whatsoever in your mind that Osama bin Laden is guilty as charged, on all counts.

Unfortunately, the evidence against him is seriously tainted. The Watcher also shows you documents being falsified, witnesses being tortured, and at least one violation of every applicable constitutional right Osama has. You honestly believe that very little of the evidence is legitimately admissible, and there is no admissible confession.

The Watcher then shows you that the case will be assigned to a particular Judge that you know and respect. This Judge is tough, but he is also fair, and he will exclude evidence that is not properly admissible. This will be a fair trial. No weasling. No takebacks.

The Watcher then disappears, and removes all supernatural elements and other obvious silliness from the story. He might show you something else later, in a bonus question.

You are a lawyer. You have the experience and skills to handle this case properly. Your phone rings. It’s the Judge. He tells you that Osama has requested a court appointed lawyer, and he offers to appoint you, if you promise him, man to man, on your sacred honor, that you will do your absolute best to win a not guilty verdict. If you take the case, you have to keep that promise. No weasling. No takebacks. You’ll be paid a fair fee. You’ll be provided with adequate resources to present a vigorous defense. Investigators, translators, experts, secretaries, paralegals, co-counsel–anything you reasonably need will be provided.

Do you take the case? Why or why not?

Bonus Question 1: The Watcher reappears. He shows you the outcome…you win, and Osama walks free. You are now the most hated man in America. Do you still take the case?

Bonus Question 2: Same as 1, except that a sniper shoots you in the head as you leave the courthouse. You’re dead, murdered because you represented this man, and won in a fair trial. Do you still take the case?
I don’t think there’s any mystery about my answers. I take the case under all scenarios. That’s who I am, be it for good or ill.

I don’t really want to be shot in the head, but hypothetically speaking, yes, and I bust my ass.

The only issue I might have is with the requirement that I try my hardest for a not guilty. I can imagine a scenario where even with the shitty evidence I might be inclined to avoid a trial, but I imagine that’s more me fighting the hypothetical than an answer to it.

I would feel like shit either way, probably. Might as well do my job.

Sure I’d take it… because it doesn’t matter what somebody says happened, only what can be proved. Fair trials are the foundation of the rule of law and democracy.

Sure. Everyone deserve council in the US.

Yep. Besides, Eric Holder already told us he wouldn’t actually “walk”.

No. I like being alive.

If I were still practicing, I’d take the case in the original scenario and bonus #1. I would decline in #2.

Also, if I was less than clear, there is no doubt. If you take the case you will win, and Osama will walk free. No weasling. No takebacks.

Not a lawyer, but if I were a defense lawyer I’d say…yes. Everyone has the right to a fair trial, and that means they have a right to be represented. Even Bin Laden.

I’d have to say that, realistically, only a few of the most deluded truthers don’t already know this, even without the crystal ball.

Yes, of course, assuming I’m a defense lawyer. Why? It would be my job, and above that, it’s how our system works. Even the worst serial killer out there has the right to a fair trial and to being represented. And if that means getting someone like bin Laden off on a technicality (which I think the chances are vanishingly small) because that means that somehow our justice system has a loophole or flaw in it, or there was a problem in the process somewhere (i.e. someone fucked up by the numbers), which hopefully means that next time it won’t happen.


Why not have space alien midget ferrets also come down and gang rape me as well? :stuck_out_tongue: The answer is still yes, and the truth is the sniper is shooting the wrong person. Cold comfort to my widow and orphaned children, granted, but if you believe in the process then there is really only one choice. Happily, I’m not a lawyer, so it will be up to someone else to take one for the team…


I’m not a lawyer.

But if I was I don’t see how I could NOT take the case. It seems to me to be exactly the kind of case that lawyers were invented for.

Expanding on that; I personally feel that we need people to take that sort of case.

That’s confusing. What’s the difference between the original question and Bonus question #1?

In #1 you get the added bonus of knowing you’ll be the least popular person in the country.

But hey, what the hell. If my involvement means he walks, guaranteed, that means he deserves to walk.

Not a lawyer.

Nothing the Watcher showed me is proof I can take to the judge to get the evidence against OBL dismissed. I’d look into the evidence as much as I could but I can’t see this conversation getting me anywhere:

Me: The tapes are fake!
Judge: Sez who?
Me: The Watcher! I mean, uh, this guy, he showed me some visions …

For that matter - I’m not willing to just take the Watcher’s word for it either. They’re a pretty shady bunch. (Sorry, Giles! I still love you, Giles!)

So unless I can corroborate that the evidence was faked I’d ignore the Watcher. If I can corroborate it, then I’d certainly take that to the judge and let the chips fall where they may.

Honestly? I think the government manufacturing evidence against someone is an even more egregious wrong than conspiring to kill people. Granted, he killed a lot of people. But the probity of the Government of the United States is more important than he.

I’m not sure I believe that I’ll be assassinated if I get OBL off (since I don’t trust the Watchers) but I suspect that the threat of retaliation is something criminal lawyers have to deal with on a regular basis. Hopefully it wouldn’t persuade me.

It was poorly written. I’m sorry. The difference is, in the original, you do not know the outcome when you decide whether to take the case.

In the bonus round, you already know the outcome when you decide to accept or not.


That’s a little unfocussed.

Wrong Watchers. Meet Uato.

Still confused. Were you referring to my comment about what Holder said-- ie, that if is found not guilty, he doesn’t really “walk”?

If so, my answer is the same.

Not that this affects my answer, but I really think it best we don’t capture or kill ObL. Either of those things will just make things worse. Better to keep him alive, on the run, and ineffective (kinda like now).

IANAL, but assuming I were one: Take away the Watcher proving to me beyond a doubt, using evidence not available to the justice system, that bin Laden is guilty, and I would take the case (though I would probably urge him to seek a better lawyer; he’s going to need the best damn lawyer in the country). With that deus-ex-machina evidence, though, I don’t think I ethically could.

Bonus question #1, I would still take the case. Bonus question #2, I would take the case, wear a Kevlar vest and helmet, and request a police escort leaving the courthouse.

Bin Laden may have hurt our country, but denying him fair representation would hurt us even worse.

Quoth Merneith:

A defense attorney doesn’t need to prove anything (though, of course, it helps if you can). It’s the prosecution’s job to prove their case, and the defense’s job to prevent them from proving.

I r bad at writing setups.

The real point is the question in the title. Everything else is just background. Got to admit, I’m surprised so many are willing to take the case. Representing a monster is a heavy thing. And it leaves scars that don’t always heal.

Hell, he probably wants to get captured eventually. He’s getting a bit long in the tooth to be hiding out in the area he’s hiding out in, and eventually he’s going to shuffle off. My guess is he’d rather go out in a blaze of glory than to die of of a cold in a cave, or freeze to death.

I seriously doubt he (or those around him) would allow him to be captured in any case, because he’s got to know that if he is, he’s not going to be martyred in the way he’d like, but instead he’s likely to be dragged back for trial and sit in jail for years, while people forget about him, and either die there or be taken out and clinically killed by a lethal injection. Not exactly the stuff of legends…


If the CIA or whoever is too stupid to not ruin every single piece of evidence we have against the man, I’m not taking the fall for them. Unless I can portray myself to the media as practically begging the prosecuter to bring something with less holes than a piece of swiss cheese, I’m not doing it.