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May 14, 2012

Intriguing victim rights' issues raised by 9/11 husband's anti-death penalty position

The New York Post has this interesting new exclusive story headlined "Husband of 9/11 victim goes to Gitmo to spare plotters from death sentence."  Here are excerpts:

The husband of a woman killed on 9/11 went to Guantanamo Bay on a shocking secret mission — to try to save the lives of the al-Qaeda monsters who planned the murder.

Blake Allison — one of 10 relatives of victims to win a lottery for tickets to the arraignment of confessed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four of his evil accomplices — had told people he was making the trip because "I wanted to see the faces of the people accused of murdering my wife."  But while there, the 62-year-old wine-company executive held a clandestine meeting with the terrorists’ lawyers, in which he offered to testify against putting their clients to death.

A vocal critic of capital punishment, Allison wants to convince the US government to spare the lives of KSM and his minions even if a military commission convicts them of a slew of death-penalty charges.  “The public needs to know there are family members out there who do not hold the view that these men should be put to death,” Allison told The Post. “We can’t kill our way to a peaceful tomorrow.”

Allison’s 48-year-old wife, Anna, was a software consultant on her way to visit a client in Los Angeles when her plane, American Airlines Flight 11, was smashed into World Trade Center Tower 1 on Sept. 11, 2001.

In a lengthy conversation from his home in New Hampshire, Allison explained his controversial view — one he admits is not shared by his late wife’s relatives or by the other family members of victims he met at Guantanamo.  “My opposition to the death penalty does not say I don’t want the people who killed my wife and [the other 911 victims] brought to account for their crimes,” he said.  “But for me, opposition to the death penalty is not situational.  Just because I was hurt very badly and personally does not, in my mind, give me the go-ahead to take a life.”

He said that “9/11 was a particularly egregious and appalling crime,” but added, “I just think it’s wrong to take a life.”

Allison, who has remarried, is under no illusion that the terrorists have reformed — and would not gladly kill more Americans.  After staring at the fiendish faces of KSM, Ramzi bin al Shibh, Walid bin Attash, Mustafa al-Hawsawi and KSM nephew Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, Allison said he is certain they have “no apparent remorse and would do it again.”

Still, he said, “I’ve been opposed to the death penalty for decades, before my wife was murdered on 9/11.  I’m still opposed to it.”

He said he spoke to other family members at Guantanamo and came to realize he was alone in his view. “I know they’re sincere in their beliefs,” he said. “They want what they perceive as justice for their loved ones. I would never tell anybody in my position what they should feel.”

The defense lawyers were pleased, but probably not terribly surprised to see him.  Allison had previously testified on behalf of 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui — the so-called 20th hijacker — who had faced the death penalty but was sentenced to a life term, which he’s serving in the Supermax prison in Colorado....

He said his opposition to execution is rooted in his Episcopalian faith. “When Martin Luther was being asked to recant by the hierarchy of the Roman church for all his Protestant actions, he said, ‘Here I stand. I can’t do otherwise.’ That’s the way I feel. First and foremost, I don’t think it’s right to take a life. It’s grounded in my religious faith. The New Testament is very clear about this.”

As the title of this post highlights, I think there are some unique federal legal issues raised by Blake Allison's status as a crime victim and his vocal opposition to the death penalty when combined with the distinctive realities of the military commissions being used to try KSM and his ilk for the 9/11 mass murders.  As regular readers know, after the 2004 passage of the federal Crime Victims Rights Act (basics here), Allison has an distinct and enforceable right to notice about and a "right to be reasonably heard" in any and all "public court proceeding." But what being "reasonably heard" and even what qualifies as a "public court proceeding" is an uncertain legal issue in the context of the military commission process.  Among other interesting questions raised here is whether and how Allison could complain and/or appeal using the CVRA if he feels he is not having his rights as a victim respected by the feds through the military commission process.

May 14, 2012 at 01:20 PM | Permalink


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An interesting somewhat-utilitarian take on a completely non-utilitarian attitude voiced by some members of the murder-victims community , Doc.

I think that if you actually talked to some members of this segment of "the anti-death penalty crowd" - as you most often refer to them - you would find that they simply don't see how killing someone back makes up for what was done to their loved ones - and in fact find that practice abhorrent in and of itself.

Posted by: Rudy | May 14, 2012 1:39:20 PM

The legal opinion found at the CRA link speaks of "a criminal complaint" etc. This being a military commission, sounds like it might not apply. The spirit of the measure should apply when possible, including in this case. This would be for victims for or against (see, e.g., the husband of Gabby Giffords, noting his wife's position in his autobiography of their story) the death penalty.

Posted by: Joe | May 14, 2012 2:00:55 PM

(A) He said he spoke to other family members at Guantanamo and came to realize he was alone in his view.

(B) "I would never tell anybody in my position what they should feel.”

(C) If the question is merely subjective, than he is wise to never tell another what to feel.

Posted by: Adamakis | May 14, 2012 3:59:17 PM

(1) "The New Testament is very clear about this.” Spot on, e.g.

@ The "thief on the cross" was forgiven & promised eternal life by Jesus but still executed, with no objection from those present.

@ Jesus indicated that the just punishment for murder is execution in Luke 19 & 20, & Matt 26.

@ Paul: "For if I be an offender, or have committed any thing worthy of death, I refuse not to die". Acts 25:11

(2) Very clear, so he would be wise not to pervert the obvious meaning of the Scriptures.

(3) “When Martin Luther was..."
...supporting the death penalty? He did.

Posted by: Adamakis | May 14, 2012 4:16:23 PM

Rudy: Do you --- or do you think others --- take offense as being labelled as part of the "the anti-death penalty crowd"? I mean this label to be descriptive, not pejorative, and yet you seem put off by it. Might you suggest another?

Posted by: Doug B. | May 14, 2012 5:53:58 PM

"The New Testament is very clear about this.”

what does that have to do with present day legalities or laws on the books in the 21st century other than it makes you feel good to quote them as justification for your point of view

Posted by: the holy see | May 14, 2012 8:09:53 PM

The use of the word "crowd" to me is somewhat pejorative.

For instance, "pro-life crowd" etc.

Simply "describe" the people as anti-death penalty. Or for the death penalty. The word "crowd" is not necessary. The word "community" also is probably better.

I'll leave what the NT is "clear" about to individual believers.

Posted by: Joe | May 15, 2012 11:16:23 AM

"killing someone back"
undiscerning equivocation is alive and well
read also: infantile generalization
pedantic reasoning

Posted by: Adamakis | May 15, 2012 2:35:41 PM

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