GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba -- The U.S. Supreme Court declined Monday to consider a pretrial challenge to the war court brought by death-penalty defendant Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, the former CIA captive accused of orchestrating al-Qaida's 2000 USS Cole bombing.
It was the second rejection of a Guantanamo captive's appeal to the high court in two weeks. No other explicit military commissions challenges are up before the justices this session.
Nashiri, 52, is accused of orchestrating al-Qaida's Oct. 12, 2000 suicide bombing of the warship off Yemen. Seventeen U.S. sailors died in the attack, and dozens of others were wounded.
Pentagon-paid defense lawyers for the Saudi captive asked the Supreme Court in Nashiri v Trump to consider the case as an exception to law that generally requires a conviction before civilian court review. Nashiri's lawyers argued his years of torture in CIA custody merits pretrial review of the case, notably to resolve the legal question of when the "War on Terror" began.
The decision also comes just days after Nashiri's three civilian lawyers invoked an ethical conflict and quit the case, with permission of the Marine general overseeing war court defense teams. That leaves just one other attorney who has met with and been accepted by Nashiri on his case -- a Navy lieutenant with no death penalty experience.
The Chief Defense Counsel, Marine Brig. Gen. John Baker, said he is looking to hire a new lawyer learned in the practice of capital punishment defense to replace veteran death-penalty defender Rick Kammen, who quit. By law a capital case can't proceed without a so-called learned counsel in court to proceed.
It is unclear what Air Force Col. Vance Spath, the USS Cole case judge, will do about an upcoming three-week hearing due to start Oct. 30. But the chief of the war court judiciary questioned in open court Monday whether Baker had the authority to paralyze the case through excusals.
"I have no idea the factual predicate of what happened in Nashiri," said Army Col. James Pohl, presiding in a pretrial hearing of the Sept. 11 death-penalty case Monday. "I have no idea whether it is relevant to this case or not."
--This article is written by Carol Rosenberg from Miami Herald and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.