The Trials of Rasmea Odeah, Part Four — Prosecution and Defense

This is my fourth and final post of five. Trials of Rasmea Odeh.

Rasmea Odeh began her trial in Eastern District Michigan on November 5, 2014 Gershwin, an African American, was appointed as the presiding judge by President Obama. He had previously tried more than 150 cases to verdict in his previous career as a federal civil defender. Judge Drain, who replaced Judge Paul Borman after discovering that his family had stock in Supersol’s parent company, was optimistic for the defense. The defense was soon disappointed to learn that Judge Drain ruled Odeh couldn’t testify regarding her torture in Israeli custody. Odeh’s hiding of her conviction and prison sentence was the issue, Drain ruled. It wasn’t the legitimacy or legality of the Israeli criminal justice system that was at stake in this case. Chicago Public Radio host Deutsch said that “the court has cut the heart out our defense”.

Although the prosecution case involved little detail, it was based almost entirely upon digitally submitted documents. Odeh was presented by the prosecution with her visa and naturalization application. The prosecution highlighted the incorrect answers to questions regarding criminal convictions or imprisonment. Although the naturalization officer that conducted Odeh’s citizenship interview in 2005 couldn’t recall the specifics, she said that the questions were the same in person and she would have marked any changes or corrections on the form. Finaly, the prosecution provided certified copies of Odeh’s indictment, sentence and conviction from Israel, as well as Odeh’s fingerprints. These were produced pursuant to the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty.

The defense team was still reeling from Drain’s pre-trial decision. However, they were not without their strategies. Deutsch tried to bring up the issue of torture in argument and testimony, sometimes drawing rebukes.

Regarding the actual evidence, Odeh testified that the answers to the visa application had been given to her in English by her brother – who had passed away before trial – and she had simply copied them onto the form without understanding what they said. Odeh maintained that her knowledge of English was minimal at the time.

During my investigation, evidence emerged that Odeh was lying. This is evidently not known by the prosecution. Odeh completed high school right before the Israeli occupation began and was well-prepared to enter medical school. She had received her education under the Jordanian Curriculum, which meant that she was required to learn English every day starting in 5th grade. She would have had over 2000 hours of English instruction by the time she was done with high school. In addition to her year in medical school, she also graduated from law school Jordan. Both of these schools required instruction in English. While the claim she was unable to read and understand simple forms is absurd, her facts proving language proficiency are not.

Odeh couldn’t claim similar literacy regarding naturalization forms, as she needed to take an English proficiency exam to become a citizen. Instead her lawyers found a psychologist who proposed the theory that Odeh’s PTSD caused her to misunderstand questions.

These and other similar questions were asked in boldface.

Are you FOREVERHave you been accused of any offense or crime?

Are you FOREVERHave you been convicted for any offense or crime?

Are you FOREVER been held in prison or jail?

The defense psychologist said that Odeh’s PTSD would have made it impossible for her to relate about her Israeli experiences and only answer questions about her American life. She had never received a ticket. Although her claims were incorrect, she did not intentionally lie.

Interviewing national experts in PTSD/memory, I investigated this theory and found powerful evidence to support it. This was again a defense strategy.

Is the court able to accept filtering theories? Tomorrow’s blog post will address this topic.