To nearly everyone’s surprise, the jury in captured FARC leader Simón Trinidad’s trial here in Washington is deadlocked after a day of deliberations. They sent a message to the judge saying that they were divided, with "honest differences," and see little hope of coming to agreement on any of the charges. The judge refused to declare a mistrial, and ordered them to take as many days as they need to come to a verdict.
Here, shared by permission, is an interesting message I received yesterday from a colleague who has been following the trial much more closely than I have. I’ve only edited it to remove any information that affects this colleague’s anonymity.
Greetings. As you know from the AP article you sent, Simon’s trial ended yesterday; the jury is now working to reach a verdict. Who knows what their take will be.
The trial was indeed very much a political trial, Adam. The conspiracy law under which Simón was charged is very broad (as was probably intended), and so lends itself to trying somebody like Trinidad. The judge, at virtually every turn during the trial, favored the Prosecution with his decisions. This happened through Tuesday, the day that both the Prosecution and Defense discussed with the judge precisely what instructions the judge would give to the jury before their deliberations. The judge invariably favored the Prosecution. He so clearly was trying to protect the Government. (The judge, Thomas Hogan, was appointed to the bench by Ronald Reagan in 1982, and one of the defense attorneys told me that he was one of the founders of Democrats for Reagan of the time.)
Simón was to have three witnesses testifying on his behalf. But the judge ruled that the testimony of the three was not relevant to the case. These rulings were stunning. Finally, Simón testified on his own behalf, which is unusual in a criminal case of this kind. (I thought he did a superb job; I can see why the FARC elected him as their spokesman. He broke down when he spoke of Jaime Pardo Leal, with whom he was to meet in Bogotá the day before Pardo was assassinated.)
The Prosecution, by contrast, had 20 witnesses, most of them flown up from Colombia. They went out of their way (it was so obvious in the case of a Colombian Army colonel that the jury laughed) to use terms of the times: terrorist, narco-terrorist, criminal, and so on. They were instructed well. The Prosecution also brought a young woman, allegedly Simón’s radio operator who entered the FARC at age 8 and begin working the radio (a girl on the radio at this age was totally unbelievable). Simón flatly denied this. Evidence was very strong that the Prosecution, and the Colombian Government, had arranged for the content of this testimony. A poor girl, she was probably given something in return. She, like Simón, is also a victim. In a word, the trial was as dirty as the war itself, and the US wallowed in the dirt.
If the jury decides against Simón, I don’t see the Americans being released any time soon. I don’t know how it might affect the swap of the other prisoners.
Take care, Adam.