SAN FRANCISCO — John Walker Lindh’s lead defense lawyer said he’s hired a team of former federal prosecutors to represent the American Taliban, and one of their first orders of business will be to challenge Lindh’s alleged confession to FBI agents in Afghanistan.
“I try not to get personally upset, but I’ve not known a case where a person was clearly headed toward the criminal courts in the view of the government, and from almost the first day has been held incommunicado,” James Brosnahan said Wednesday night.
“He has been interrogated for 54 days, and has been denied not only the parents’ communications — never mind a visit — but his lawyer,” Brosnahan said. “We’ll bring appropriate motions and that will be for the court” to decide.
Brosnahan talked with The Associated Press by phone just before escorting Lindh’s parents, Frank Lindh and Marilyn Walker, to attempt to meet with their son at the city jail in Alexandria, Va. It would have been the family’s first reunion in the more than two years since Lindh left California for the Middle East.
“We’re a little disappointed, but the guard was able to tell us that he is in good condition,” Lindh said of his son. Brosnahan said jail authorities felt the meeting should be put off until Thursday.
Lindh, who turns 21 on Feb. 9, was charged last week with conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens, and could face life in prison if convicted. He was captured in Afghanistan after a November uprising by Taliban prisoners in which a CIA officer was killed.
Brosnahan would not comment on specific elements of his defense strategy but suggested that he would file motions with the judge concerning Lindh’s constitutional due process rights.
“A person has to be arraigned within 48 hours of the charges and the charges were made last Tuesday,” Brosnahan said. “This is a week, plus one day later, and he still hasn’t been arraigned. I think it’s off the charts from a criminal procedural standpoint. It’s unprecedented.”
Brosnahan said he hired Bill Cummings, the former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; and former federal prosecutors George Harris and Tony West. Harris worked with Brosnahan in prosecuting former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger in the Iran-Contra scandal, and West worked under Attorney General Janet Reno in the Justice Department.
Brosnahan said he and Lindh’s parents received a letter from him on Wednesday, dated Jan. 8, in which Lindh thanked his parents for hiring Brosnahan to represent him and reassured them he was in good health. “It is comforting to know that you found a lawyer,” said the letter.
Brosnahan said Lindh’s letter should dispel any confusion U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft may have had concerning whether or not Lindh had legal representation.
Ashcroft had earlier questioned whether Lindh even had a lawyer.
“There’s been some kind of white noise coming from mahogony fox holes in the Department of Justice about well, ’Gee we really don’t know whether he has a lawyer,”’ Brosnahan said. “And now it turns out since Jan. 8 they knew exactly that he was glad that he had a lawyer.”