From: Karen Wald
Subject: A look at the trials they're so upset about
Date: Fri, 11 Apr 2003
A friend wrote:
Doesn't the fact that these poor slobs got lightning trials without proper defense counsel bother you? Sure, the gov't had evidence that they had taken small amounts of $ and other things from the USG, but the procedural haste bothers me -- just as it would anywhere.
REPLY From: Karen Wald
First, I don't consider them "poor slobs". All or most knew very well what they were doing. When you get in bed with US ultrarightists who are trying to destroy the social, political and economic system of your country, you aren't doing it innocently. (One of the anti-Castro articles on this mentioned that they were "expecting" something like this. Actually, Cason was intentionally provoking it, I am sure.)
Does that mean nothing bothers me about all this? You know me too well to think that (that's why you asked the question). But what bothers me is different from the way you worded your question. The timing bothers me. The fact that it seems that some people in Cuban leadership still don't know how to make their case clearly BEFORE engaging in such actions (or fail to realize the importance of doing so) bothers me. They take so much for granted, assume that everyone knows what is self-evident to them. And of course it isn't self-evident to everyone else. (I keep being reminded of the advice someone once gave me: "sometimes being right isn't enough").
What I learned about the Cuban legal system that is relevant here is that they spend a long time on pre-trial investigation before ever even accusing someone. They don't MAKE a formal accusation and take someone to trial unless they have overwhelming proof. As a result, most cases investigated aren't brought to trial, and most cases that are brought to trial result in convictions. (I should add, in case you haven't read it before, that unlike the US adversarial system, both the defense and the prosecution attorneys are required by law and expected to comply with the obligation to be seeking JUSTICE, so that prosecutors MUST provide the defense with any exculpatory evidence, or themselves drop the case when they find any.) Also as a result of this kind of process, the primary role of defense lawyers for those who are brought to trial tends to be to try to ameliorate the punishment, not to deny that the violations of law in fact occurred. (It's more like plea-bargaining in US courts).
Knowing all that, I am much less bothered by the short period of time of the trials or the relatively ineffective role of the defense attorneys, but that's because I am aware of the long process that preceded the trials, and that this is typical. [It's similar to the foreign press always harping on the few days the National Assembly spends in session, omitting the fact that the standing commissions of the National Assembly meet year round, just like Congressional Committees in the US do.] But most people do NOT know that, so I am troubled by the fact that the Cuban government didn't realize they had to not only carry out justice, but also give the appearance of doing so. (In the US we often have the reverse problem: that the system gives the APPEARANCE of carrying out justice when in fact it does NOT.)