Ahmed Ghailani, who participated in the 1998 bombing of the US embassy in Tanzania (killing over 200 people), has been convicted on one count. He was acquitted on the other 284 counts, including all the murder charges. Ghailani could still be (and hopefully will be) sentenced to life in prison. Nevertheless, this result has to be seen as a failure of Eric Holder’s scheme to try terrorists in civilian courts.
Some will try to argue that this result is a success, since Ghailani was convicted of something and could serve life in prison. (For example, Greg Sargent gives it a stab.) But even the New York Times sees how flimsy that spin is:
While Judge Kaplan could still sentence Mr. Ghailani to a life sentence, even some proponents of civilian trials acknowledged that his acquittal on most of the charges against him was damaging to their cause because it was a stark demonstration that it was possible that a jury might acquit a defendant entirely in such a case. Several critics explicitly noted Mr. Holder Jr.’s vow that “failure is not an option” in the prosecution of accused conspirators in the Sept. 11 attacks.
(Earlier reflections on the show trials here.)