Amid Murky Investigation, Key Defender Asks to Give up 9/11 Case
A protection lawyer who has spent a decade on the Guantánamo case abruptly sought to resign amid an in-house investigation.
GUANTÁNAMO BAY, Cuba — An extended-serving demise penalty protection lawyer for one of many 5 males accused of plotting the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist assaults has requested to be faraway from the case, stirring new uncertainty about when the trial may start.
It’s finally as much as the trial decide to resolve whether or not the lawyer, Cheryl Bormann, or any protection lawyer can resign. If she is allowed to depart, the decide may very well be confronted with the conundrum of whether or not to gradual or halt pretrial proceedings till her substitute is employed and introduced in control.
Or the decide might resolve that the person she represents, Walid bin Attash, be tried individually as an accused conspirator within the assaults, which killed almost 3,000 individuals.
Ms. Bormann first appeared on the courtroom in Could 2012 for the arraignment of Mr. bin Attash and the 4 different accused plotters, together with Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the accused mastermind of the assault. The one feminine capital protection lawyer on the case, she drew consideration by wearing a head scarf and a black abaya, a conventional gown worn by ladies in Saudi Arabia, the place her consumer grew up.
In time, most different ladies engaged on the protection groups would comply with her instance and canopy their hair; some additionally wore loosefitting clothing, in what they’ve described as an indication of respect for the faith of the lads, whom they think about to be victims of C.I.A. torture. The apparel has angered some relations of Sept. 11 victims, who interpreted the gesture as submissiveness to the accused terrorists.
It isn’t clear why Ms. Bormann abruptly resigned. However she not too long ago filed a courtroom pleading that disclosed that her “efficiency and conduct” had been underneath investigation by the Navy Commissions Protection Group, the Pentagon workplace that gives assets and legal professionals to navy commissions case.
Ms. Bormann stated that she couldn’t ethically symbolize the prisoner whereas the investigation was underway and requested that hearings this month be canceled. As a substitute, the decide, Col. Matthew N. McCall, has postponed the beginning of the hearings till March 21.
The decide gave legal professionals and prosecutors till subsequent week to file pleadings on whether or not he ought to launch Ms. Bormann from the case.
Earlier than Guantánamo, she practiced capital protection in Chicago, the place she gained a repute as a dogged fighter on the Prepare dinner County public defender’s murder job pressure. She joined the battle courtroom bar after Gov. Pat Quinn of Illinois abolished the demise penalty in 2011, and has used the plain-spoken language of a death-penalty defender in courtroom arguments to clarify what’s at stake.
“This can be a case the place the federal government seeks to kill Mr. bin Attash and these different 4 males,” Ms. Bormann reminded the decide in November. Protection legal professionals had been urgent Colonel McCall to order the federal government to launch extra data from the C.I.A.’s so-called black websites, the place the Sept. 11 defendants had been held and tortured earlier than their switch to Guantánamo in 2006.
She has referred to prosecutors as “the federal government that wishes to kill him.” At one level, protesting the restricted hours she might spend together with her consumer, Ms. Bormann famous that “no exception is made for a commissions legal professional who’s defending a person the place the federal government needs to kill him.”
On the coronary heart of the problem confronting the decide is that Ms. Bormann serves as a so-called realized counsel, a lawyer with particular abilities and expertise in defending individuals at death-penalty trials. By regulation, every defendant in a capital case at Guantánamo is entitled to a realized counsel.
However no substitute is ready within the wings, stated Brig. Gen. Jackie L. Thompson Jr. of the Military. Because the chief protection counsel for navy commissions, he can rent legal professionals for Guantánamo circumstances however doesn’t have authority to fireplace them. He oversaw the investigation of Ms. Bormann.
Neither Basic Thompson nor Ms. Bormann would elaborate on the substance of the investigation.
“My ongoing concern for Mr. bin Attash prevents me from commenting,” she stated.
The overall stated that he had taken no actions in opposition to Ms. Bormann in gentle of the investigation and that she nonetheless had safety clearances and full entry to her places of work. Ms. Bormann met with the decide on Monday; her group members have twice met with him individually, as soon as with Mr. bin Attash. Basic Thompson stated that the decide “has what he wants” to resolve whether or not to let her go.
In his view, he stated, the opposite legal professionals on her group — three civilians and two members of the navy — don’t qualify as realized counsel.
After the realized counsel for an additional defendant, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, obtained permission to depart the case in 2020 due to a coronary heart situation, the Pentagon took a number of months to rent, fund and procure safety clearances for the brand new lawyer, David I. Bruck.
Mr. Bruck, one of many nation’s prime capital defenders, stated no five-person capital case had been tried to verdict within the fashionable historical past of the demise penalty and requested for 30 months to arrange. The request was by no means dominated upon as a result of the Guantánamo courtroom was closed for greater than 500 days due to the coronavirus pandemic.