9/11 Trial Poses Unparalleled Legal Obstacles

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WASHINGTON — How do you defend one of the most notorious terrorist figures in history?

One step, legal analysts say, may be to ask for a change of venue.

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed’s lawyers, whoever they are, will no doubt question whether he can get a fair trial from a jury sitting, as Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. noted, in a Manhattan courthouse “just blocks away from where the Twin Towers once stood.”

Then will come the inevitable challenges to interrogation methods used on Mr. Mohammed during more than six years in detention. The government has acknowledged waterboarding him 183 times to extract information about the Sept. 11 attacks, which he eventually admitted planning.

Finally, if Mr. Mohammed is convicted, defense lawyers will most likely plead for jurors in New York, historically more cautious about capital punishment than much of the rest of country, to spare the sentence of execution and send him to prison for the rest of his life instead...

... Mr. Mohammed and his four co-defendants in military custody have admitted their active involvement in plotting the Sept. 11 attacks and have boasted of their success in killing 3,000 people.

Once the Justice Department brings formal terrorism charges against him, Mr. Mohammed could seek to enter a guilty plea, just as he has tried to do in military custody.

But legal analysts were not convinced that he would go that route and said that he might instead seek to martyr himself in the eyes of Muslim extremists through a grand and lengthy trial...

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