9/11 Defense Lawyers Chosen from Short List

By Kamika Dunlap on December 11, 2009 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Before prosecutions can begin in the 9/11 trial next year, major details still need to be hammered out.

Those issues include not only the questions raised in our previous discussions about which detainees get civilian trials and the location of where those federal court trials might be held but also selecting lawyers to defend Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and others accused in the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Figuring this out is proving to be both a profession and personal challenge for lawyers who may be appointed to the capital cases.

The 9/11 lawyers will be chosen from short list or "capital panel" of New York attorneys who have broad experience in death penalty and other complex criminal cases.

According to the New York Times, the terrorism-case backgrounds of many lawyers on the list could produce conflicts that would prevent them from participating in the 9/11 trial, making that shortlist even shorter.

The list of lawyers to be turned to for capital cases was developed after use of the federal death penalty was expanded in the 1990s when judges and lawyers realized that New York City needed a more seasoned bar.

As a result, the selection process has prompted soul searching among the cadre of about 20 veteran defense lawyers. Some say they also worry about the strong criticism that may fallow being one of the 9/11 lawyers.

Many lawyers have represented defendants in New York, including six in the trial stemming from Al Qaeda's 1998 bombings of two American Embassies in East Africa.

Currently, New York federal courts are reviewing its list of experienced lawyers in an effort to identify those with the willingness and ability to take on terrorism cases.

It is not known precisely when 9/11 defendants might arrive in New York.

Copied to clipboard