Judge: Padilla Case 'Light on Facts'

In a pretrial hearing for Jose Padilla, expected to go to trial on terrorism-related charges in federal court in Miami next month, the judge made a startling comment.

After defense lawyers complained about the minimal evidence implicating Padilla in an alleged “conspiracy to murder, kidnap and maim” that doesn’t say where, when or why, U.S. District Judge Marcia G. Cooke, in seemed to agree. The indictment “is very light on facts,” she said, according to the Washington Post.

Experts also say the case against Padilla, an American citizen arrested in 2002 after allegedly plotting to attack the U.S. with a uranium-enhanced bomb, is weak because it identifies only an amorphous alleged international conspiracy to murder spanning many countries.

“Describing the entire jihad movement as a single conspiracy is a bit of stretch. At trial, they’re going to have to be more specific,” says Robert M. Chesney, a law professor at Wake Forest University.

It remains to be seen whether a jury will convict —and, if so, whether appellate courts will uphold a conspiracy conviction—on such nonspecific evidence, the Post article points out. As prosecutor Brian K. Frazier puts it, the charges revolve around an “inchoate crime … rather than any particular completed operation,” and “it’s very hard to particularize.”

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