Adam Liptak at the Times on the Padilla verdict's legal angle
The central charge against Mr. Padilla was that he conspired to murder, maim and kidnap people in a foreign country. The charge is a serious one, and it can carry a life sentence. But prosecutors needed to prove very little by way of concrete conduct to obtain a conviction under the law.
â€œThere is no need to show any particular violent crime,â€ said Robert M. Chesney, a law professor at Wake Forest University and the author of a recent law review article on conspiracy charges in terrorism prosecutions. â€œYou donâ€™t have to specify the particular means used to carry out the crime.â€
Indeed, the strongest piece of evidence in Mr. Padillaâ€™s case was what prosecutors said was an application form Mr. Padilla filled out to attend a training camp run by Al Qaeda in Afghanistan in 2000.
â€œIt is a pretty big leap between a mere indication of desire to attend a camp and a crystallized desire to kill, maim and kidnap,â€ said Peter S. Margulies, a law professor at Roger Williams University who has also written on conspiracy charges in terrorism prosecutions.
The conspiracy charge against Mr. Padilla, Professor Margulies continued, â€œis highly amorphous, and it basically allows someone to be found guilty for something that is one step away from a thought crime.â€