Ed Dowd, Jr. Mentioned in Post-Dispatch Column on Terror Trials

Terror trials need St. Louis touch

By Bill McClellan

New York City does not want the Sept. 11 terrorism trials. St. Louis should volunteer for them.

We have a brand new federal courthouse. The city has a brand new jail just a couple of blocks away. Surely, something could be worked out.

What would St. Louis get? Two things we always want — publicity and money. Tons of publicity. Millions and millions of federal dollars.

I am not suggesting we let New York use St. Louis as a venue for New York lawyers to try the cases. I am suggesting St. Louis take over the trial.

The U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Missouri is a first-class organization. It never seems to have the scandals and problems that periodically plague the U.S. attorney’s office across the river or the one in Kansas City. Why is that? Have we just been lucky in the people who have been appointed to head the office over the years? 

Maybe that’s some of it, but I think there is a sense of professionalism in the office. We have a bunch of career prosecutors who are good at what they do. Some of the best prosecutors work on drug cases. I think the War on Drugs could be scaled back for a while while we turn that prosecutorial expertise toward terrorism.

There are people who argue that we ought not try terrorists in the criminal justice system. These people say we will just be giving the terrorists an opportunity to push their radical views.

But consider the recent case in Wichita in which “pro-life” activist Scott Roeder went on trial for the murder of Dr. George Tiller, a doctor who performed late-term abortions. Roeder testified in his own defense, but he was not allowed to prattle on indefinitely about his religious beliefs. He was on the stand for less than a day.

Judges can control that sort of thing.

“Mr. Khalid, this case is not about your ideological or religious beliefs. The question before this court is whether you had a hand in the attacks of September 2001. That is all we’re going to consider.”

I think part of the problem is the hangover from the O.J. Simpson case. Judge Lance Ito never took control of that case and it meandered on for nine long months. In St. Louis, it would have been over in two weeks, maybe less.

In fact, I’ve written about murder cases that were over in a day.

That’s the way the terror trials should be. Two or three weeks max. We need a judge who will move things along.

I suggest we bring Stephen Limbaugh back to the bench. He spent 25 years as a federal judge before having to retire in July 2008 when his son was appointed to the federal bench. He’s a well-respected, thoughtful man and he will not tolerate harangues from the witness stand.

We are also going to need somebody to organize things. That’s because there will be some cross-jurisdictional issues here. For instance, we will probably want to use the city’s new Justice Center. It’s close to the federal court.

Let’s put former U.S. Sen. Jack Danforth in charge. He ran the Waco investigation. To give this effort a bipartisan flavor, we’ll make prominent Democrat and former U.S. Attorney Ed Dowd his assistant. Dowd assisted Danforth in the Waco investigation, so we know the two can work together.

Many things will have to be worked out. The federal government will give us hundreds of millions of dollars for these trials, and some of that is going to have to go for security.

I am not sure how to handle that. The St. Louis police department has its hands full with its regular workload. Besides, the current police board seems dysfunctional and the chief is secretive — he seems to run the department like a private agency — and I’m not sure we’d want to entrust millions of dollars to them. Actually, I am sure, and we wouldn’t.

So I’ll let Danforth and Dowd figure out the security. They just have to understand that the city needs to be able to pocket a good chunk of that federal money. After all, that’s part of the reason we’re hosting these trials. St. Louis needs money.

The other reason, of course, is publicity. We’re always getting overlooked. Last month, we learned we didn’t make the cut to have a soccer game if the U.S. hosts the 2018 or 2022 World Cup. Eighteen cities were selected as potential sites, and we weren’t one of them. We used to own soccer. Of course, we’ll never host a Super Bowl.

But the eyes of the world would be on St. Louis if we hosted the terror trials. And you know who would stand out?

The solid, no-nonsense, Midwestern jurors who would listen to the evidence, ignore any theatrics and calmly do the right thing, whatever the right thing might be.

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