Part of jury nullificaiton defense strategy in trial on immigration fraud charges.
The trial in Detroit federal court of convicted Palestinian supermarket bomber Rasmieh (Rasmea) Odeh, for failing to disclose her conviction and prison time in Israel during the immigration and naturalization process, completed testimony Friday.
As detailed before, the defense strategy has been jury nullification — having the jury render a verdict based on the broader political dispute, while contesting the underlying conviction through claims by Odeh she was tortured into confessing.
The Judge cut off the latter approach by ruling that allegations of torture were legally irrelevant since the legal issue was the non-disclosure to immigration officials, not whether the conviction was justified. In fact, there is evidence other than the confession of Odeh’s involvement in the bombing, but to reopen the original conviction would have created a trial within a trial.
The judge ordered that the defense could not mention the alleged torture.
Nonetheless, according to a report from a supporter of Odeh, while testifying on cross-examination, Odeh volunteered to the jury that the was tortured. The Judge struck the testimony, but you can’t unring the bell. Via the anti-Israel Electronic Intifada:
[Prosecutor] Tukel began by asking Odeh about her education. As the defense has alleged that Odeh had help from her brother on her 1994 visa application and then misinterpreted the questions on her 2004 application for naturalization, the prosecution focused on Odeh’s advanced education.
“You knew that was a false statement when you submitted your application?” he asked.
“No why would I lie?” Odeh responded.
“Why would you lie?” Tukel retorted. “You had to lie because you knew if the US Embassy had found out you were in Lebanon, they would find out you had been in Israel before and would then have found out that you had been convicted of two bombings that resulted in the death of two innocent civilians.”
“No, I was tortured —” Odeh exclaimed.
This was the first time the jury has heard any direct mention of torture — though the defense hinted at “extensive interrogation” during its opening statement. The prosecution immediately objected to Odeh’s invocation of her torture, which was sustained by the judge. Deutsch objected to the long and argumentative question, which was also sustained by the judge.
It’s unclear from the reports whether the Judge had any greater reaction to this clear defiance of his order, other than to sustain the objection.
This was part of a pattern, as we previously noted, of defense counsel suggesting to the jury without using the word “torture” that the conviction was illegitimate. Without being in the courtroom it’s hard to know what effect, if any, this strategy has had on the jury.
Given the judge’s sustaining objections, and jury instructions, it may make no difference at all, or may even hurt the defense.
Other than jury nullification, Odeh’s defense seems to be that the questions were confusing, and that she thought the question of prior conviction and prison incarceration only applied to the extent it took place in the U.S.
According to AP, the prosecutor mocked that claim in closing argument:
A prosecutor told jurors Friday it’s “ridiculous” to believe that a Chicago activist didn’t think she had to disclose convictions for bombings in Israel when she applied for US citizenship in 2004
“How does someone misunderstand the word ‘ever?’” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Tukel said during closing arguments in Detroit federal court.
Tukel was referring to Rasmieh Odeh’s citizenship application, which asked if she had “EVER” been arrested, charged, convicted or imprisoned. She checked the “no” box, telling jurors she believed the questions were related only to criminal history in the U.S.
“How ridiculous is that?” Tukel said
Odeh was interviewed in 2004 by a Detroit immigration officer, Jennifer Williams, who told jurors that she always tells citizenship applicants that criminal history applies to “anywhere in the world.” Odeh, however, testified that Williams didn’t use those words.
“I remember exactly what she said. … She didn’t add questions,” Odeh said.
According to the Electronic Intifada author the prosecution used the simple analogy of your fiance asking if you’ve ever been married:
With derision, Tukel characterized this as an “amazing string of coincidences.” He described Odeh’s claim that she misinterpreted the question as “ridiculous.”
In an apparent effort to appeal to the majority female jury, Tukel made an analogy to a hypothetical conversation between an engaged couple: “What if a woman asked her fiance if he had ever been married and he said no.”
In the scenario Tukel posited to the jury, the man is then revealed to have been once married abroad, to which “the wife’s head snapped” — but the man claimed he had nevertheless truthfully answered her question.
“That’s an everyday, common experience that you can imagine, to help you use your common sense in this case,” Tukel said to the jury.
The jury held very brief deliberations Friday, and resumes Monday morning.
[Featured Image via Stop FBI Repression Twitter]DONATE
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.