Snowden, Ulbricht and the myth of a fair trial

12734092_10208984413271784_2823709359653599643_nIt was the first official event hosted by the Free State Project after the February 3 announcement that the group had reached it’s goal of 20,000 signers on the statement of intent to move to New Hampshire to “exert the fullest practical effort toward the creation of a society in which the maximum role of government is the protection of individuals’ rights to life, liberty, and property.” Liberty Forum 2016 was part celebration of all that has been accomplished over the past 15 years by the nearly 2,000 early movers, i.e. people who made the move to New Hampshire for the Free State Project prior to the move being triggered, and part conference on how to move forward.

Among the more popular topics of discussion at Liberty Forum 2016 was privacy. This was highlighted by Edward Snowden during his Saturday morning keynote speech from Moscow to a standing room only crowd in one conference room and an overflow crowd in another. When asked what would need to happen for him to return to the United States, Snowden responded, “I’ve told the government I would return if they would guarantee a fair trial where I can make a public interest defense of why this was done and allow a jury to decide.” The government responded, he said, by telling him he would not be tortured.

The government response of “you won’t be tortured” should be enough to cause anyone to take a closer look at the so-called justice system. One could certainly look at the large number of people who have been exonerated in the United States and see that official misconduct, a guilty plea, and/or false confession were involved in the vast majority of exoneration cases. This goes to show that the judicial system is more concerned with a conviction than justice.

One of the more high profile cases highlighting this infatuation with conviction over justice, is the case of Ross Ulbright, sentenced life in prison in 2015 for having created and operated the Silk Road online marketplace. The Silk Road was a revolutionary free market website where people could buy and sell almost anything, including illicit drugs, false identification documents and even books; however, there was a prohibition on anything that was meant to harm innocent people. Ulbricht, whose mother also spoke at the Liberty Forum, is now appealing his conviction.

Ulbricht’s attorneys filed an appeal last month, and in all caps highlight some of the ways that Ross was denied a fair trial: “THE COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION AND DENIED ULBRICHT HIS FIFTH AND SIXTH AMENDMENT RIGHTS TO DUE PROCESS, THE RIGHT TO PRESENT A DEFENSE, AND A FAIR TRIAL BY (A) PRECLUDING THE DEFENSE FROM USING AT TRIAL THE EVIDENCE RELATING TO DEA SPECIAL AGENT CARL FORCE’S CORRUPTION; (B) REFUSING TO ORDER THE GOVERNMENT TO PROVIDE ADDITIONAL DISCOVERY AND BRADY MATERIAL REGARDING CORRUPTION; AND (C) DENYING ULBRICHT’S MOTION FOR A NEW TRIAL BASED ON ADDITIONAL POST-TRIAL DISCLOSURES REGARDING FORCE AND ANOTHER CORRUPT LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENT INVOLVED IN THE SILK ROAD INVESTIGATION.”

The corruption involved in putting Ross Ulbricht behind bars is astounding, but not surprising, and should be closely watched by anyone demanding Edward Snowden “come home and face trial.” A judicial system that is less concerned with justice than obtaining a conviction can not and will not be able to ever ensure a fair trial, and will only be able to guarantee “you won’t be tortured.”

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