Friday morning, the first trial at Gitmo under President Obama was suspended because the defendant’s lawyer, Lt. Col. Jon Jackson, collapsed and had to be medevacked off the base for medical treatment. He’s been given 30 days’ convalescence leave. In a closed-door meeting in his chambers Friday, the military judge declared Omar Khadr’s trial on hold for at least 30 days. The scheduled hearing was cancelled and the jury was never brought back into court.
Because there was no public hearing, there’s no word yet on whether the judge will declare a mistrial or send the jurors home with instructions to stay away from press reports about the case for the next month or longer. Khadr’s case has been beset by delays and legal challenges over the five years he’s been before the military commissions. Khadr is the third detainee to go to trial since the prison that has held nearly 800 detainees was opened in 2002.
I was last here at Gitmo in July, for a hearing in which Khadr fired his civilian lawyers and Lt. Col. Jackson was appointed sole defense counsel. That hearing was a week after Lt. Col. Jackson underwent gall bladder surgery, and his collapse on Friday morning was reportedly due to complications from that surgery. It’s notable that the Pentagon provided Lt. Col. Jackson with only two military paralegals to assist him with the complex and historic trial, while the prosecution team includes four lawyers and around four paralegals.
That’s justice in the military commissions.