It is a cornerstone of the American legal system that someone is presumed innocent until proven beyond a reasonable doubt that he or she is guilty. One of the ways that the courts protect this right is by only trying someone in front of an unbiased and impartial jury. Trying to defend against a criminal charge in front of anything less puts a suspect in an extremely difficult and dangerous position. A former member of the Taliban's recent extradition to the United States and conviction of serious drug charges in Washington, D.C., calls into question whether he truly had an unbiased and impartial jury.
Since the 9/11 attacks it is undeniable that many people in Washington, D.C., and across the country have held biases against the Taliban and anyone suspected of terrorism. Because of these long-standing prejudices, an Afghan who was supposedly linked to the Taliban's conviction for federal drug charges must be carefully examined to ensure that the jury was unbiased.
According to federal prosecutors, the 60-something-year-old Afghan man had been in Pakistan when he was arrested and sent to Afghanistan. The Washington Post, however, notes that his arrest was not related to his indictment, in which it was alleged that he sold drugs to other Afghans. Prosecutors say that the man had sold a considerable amount of heroin in the past year, but the man's attorneys insist that the government did not clearly show that the man knew his drugs were going to the United States. They argue that without showing this, the prosecutors failed to actually show he was guilty of the federal drug charges.
While many of the people arrested in Maryland and Washington, D.C., on drug charges won't be an Afghan who is reportedly connected to the Taliban, they may face some of the same challenges that this man has faced. Many people in society have a negative view of people who use drugs and, thus, anyone accused of a drug charge may already be confronting this bias. In addition, criminal charges may be too complex for juries to notice that certain elements of the crime haven't been proven before they find a suspect guilty.
Source: The Washington Post, "Afghan man convicted of drug, narco-terrorism charges in U.S. court," Del Quentin Wilber, March 13, 2012