The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to a speedy trial. "Speedy" is, admittedly, an imprecise term.
But consider the case of a mass murder committed in November of 2009, witnessed by several people, many of whom suffered wounds in the attack, followed immediately by an arrest and for which there has never been another suspect. The fact that there has not yet been a trial, much less a verdict or sentencing, would seem, on the face of things, to violate that constitutional guarantee.
And if it is the defendant and his lawyers who are responsible for the delay, perhaps we need to remember that society – to include victims of the crime – has a stake in a prompt resolution. In the administration of justice, as in so many other facets of life, we seem bogged down by delay and a kind of overarching irresolution. Implementation of a critical piece of Obamacare, for example, has been postponed for another year. Until after the next election and pending more massaging of the details. Meanwhile, those most affected by the law – and they are not the people administering it – are left dangling.
Major Maj. Nidal Hasan shot and killed 13 people in cold blood, wounded another 32, and shouted Allah Akbar while he did his killing. Almost four years later, he has yet to be tried.
He has, however, come up with a novel defense. He admits to the killings but argues that they were justified. The people he killed were soldiers on their way to Afghanistan so he was acting in defense of the Taliban. In times of more clarity, he would have been welcome to try that one out in court right before he was taken outside and hanged.
There has been talk that Major Hassan might be represented by Ramsey Clark. Of course. And if that doesn't work out, the major will act as his own lawyer and this will prompt many to cite the old line about how a defendant who chooses to represent himself has a fool for a client.
In this case, it might be more sagacious to point out that, four years into an open and shut case and no trial yet, the major is making fools of the rest of us.