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Monday, February 11, 2013
A Distinction Without A Difference
This is a story that just will not go away.
 
A January 31, 2013 Associated Press news story headlined: “Fort Hood suspect still faces possible execution,” noting that “The judge, Col. Tara Osborn, was expected to rule later on Maj. Nidal Hasan’s request to plead guilty of premeditated murder in the 2009 attack on the Texas Army post. However, Army rules prohibit a judge from accepting a guilty plea in a death penalty case, so her earlier ruling Wednesday indicates he would not be allowed to plead guilty as long as that punishment option remains on the table.”
 
How much money did the government spend to care for Major Nidal Hasan after he was severely wounded while he was shooting people at Fort Hood, Texas, only to put him on trial in a case that could result in the death penalty?
 
Fox News reported: “Thirteen people were killed and dozens more wounded at Fort Hood in 2009…Major Nidal Hasan, a former Army psychiatrist, who is being held for the attacks, allegedly was inspired by radical U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen in late September. The two men exchanged as many as 20 emails, according to U.S. officials, and Awlaki declared Hasan a hero.”
 
David Horowitz noted that, as the case moves toward trial, “The Department of Defense (DOD) has classified the 2009 Fort Hood massacre that claimed 13 Americans and wounded 29 more as ‘workplace violence,’ observing that the “ The Obama administration is sacrificing American security in favor of political correctness.”
 
OSHA defines “workplace violence” as violence or the threat ofviolence against workers. It can occur at oroutside the workplace and can range fromthreats and verbal abuse to physical assaults andhomicide, one of the leading causes of job-relateddeaths. However it manifests itself, workplaceviolence is a growing concern for employers and employees nationwide…Some 2 million American workers are victims of workplace violence each year.”
 
OSHA further notes that “Workplace violence can strike anywhere, and no one is immune. Some workers, however, are at increased risk. Among them are workers who exchange money with the public; deliver passengers, goods, or services; or work alone or in small groups, during late night or early morning hours, in high-crime areas, or in community settings and homes where they have extensive contact with the public. This group includes health-care and social service workers such as visiting nurses, psychiatric evaluators, and probation officers; community workers such as gas and water utility employees, phone and cable TV installers, and letter carriers; retail workers; and taxi drivers.”
 
If the ultimate penalty for killing someone is the same no matter the reason, why should we be concerned about how it’s labeled? After all, murder is murder, right?
 
The difference is found in the distinction between an employee who goes off the rails and terrorism. In my opinion, Major Hasan’s action was an act of terrorism, which calls for an entirely different response. 
 
Fox News also reported that “Sen. Susan Collins…blasted the Defense Department for classifying the Fort Hood massacre as workplace violence and suggested political correctness is being placed above the security of the nation's Armed Forces at home. During a joint session of the Senate and House Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday, the Maine Republican referenced a letter from the Defense Department depicting the Fort Hood shootings as workplace violence. She criticized the Obama administration for failing to identify the threat as radical Islam.”
 
This is more than just a distinction without a difference. It is significant because of the type of trial that will be involved. The ultimate punishment could be very different. If it’s “workplace violence” Hasan will be tried in a civilian court, probably in New York. If it’s a terrorist act, he could be tried by a military tribunal.
 
Y. Thomas M. Defrank, the Daily News Washington Bureau Chief, noted: “‘No matter how heinous his crimes, the Army psychiatrist is entitled to two separate appeals to the Supreme Court. Under the rules of military justice, his execution would require the personal approval of the commander in chief. ‘He's got an array of protections which in some respects exceed those he'd get from a civilian court," said Yale Law School Prof. Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice.’”
 
Can someone please explain to me why our government is trying a man for murder, in a death-penalty case, bringing him back from death’s door after he was wounded in the act of shooting his victims.
 
Why bother using the resources of a hospital to care for him. He was badly wounded, paralyzed below the waist and bedridden for months after the shooting.
 
I know we have the best judicial system in the world and that it is based on the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. But, sometimes I wonder if we shouldn’t make a few changes.
 
For one thing, religious fanaticism should never be permitted as the reason for us to abandon our system of justice. 
 
Unfortunately, we still seem to be a long way from seeing justice done in this case.
 
© 2013 Harris R. Sherline, All Right Reserved
 
If you enjoy these commentaries, please help my readership grow by passing them around. If someone sent this to you, and you would like to receive it directly, please email me at hrs100@verizon.net.
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