The Trials of Rasmea Odeh, Part Five — Did PTSD Make Her Do It?

Eugene Volokh again, for inviting us to blog this week on my book. Trials of Rasmea Odeh. Part One can be found here, Part Two here, Part Three here and Part Four here.

Rasmea Odeh’s answers on her naturalization application were so obviously false that her first lawyer—William Swor of Detroit—proceeded straight to plea bargaining without filing pretrial motions. Swor, who was honored with awards by the ACLU, National Lawyers Guild and Arab American Chamber of Commerce as well, wasn’t an indifferent.

Swor reached a very favorable agreement, which included no imprisonment time. Odeh, however, rejected the offer. After consulting with Deutsch and Fennerty, she opted to raise a political defense—condemning Israel for torture and conspiring with the U.S. government—under the guidance of the leftist lawyers, who entered appearances in the case.

Even a politically motivated defense must deal with falsehoods regarding the naturalization forms.

Odeh was fortunate to have Chicago as his home, where he could be among the most respected authorities in treating victims of torture. Mary Fabri was the director of Torture Treatment Services and International Training in the Kovler Center. She had also consulted about torture care in Haiti, Rwanda, Guatemala and Sri Lanka. Odeh was confirmed to have suffered from PTSD by her meeting with her over 18 hours and six sessions.

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Fabri was a trained psychologist to treat victims and had unquestionably accepted Odeh’s exaggerations. She credulously repeated them in her detailed report. Fabri stated, for example that Odeh was tortured and continued for 45 more days “she didn’t have any information.” [about the bombing]To share” her interrogators. Odeh, however, had already publicly acknowledged her part in the bombing prior to immigrating the U.S.A. Her most detailed previous account stated that Odeh was only tortured for seven consecutive days.

Worse was however Fabri’s constant improvement in her assessment. Fabri initially stated that Odeh could have misinterpreted naturalization forms’ questions. However, she later admitted, “I don’t know what happened in her mind.”

However, as the case progressed Fabri grew her opinions beyond her competence. She applied her new PTSD filtering theory and concluded that Ms. Odeh didn’t intentionally lie on her citizenship exam. Instead, she interpreted the questions to only apply to her U.S. life.

Fabri was exonerated by the prosecution on grounds that expert psychological evidence could not be admissible as a general intent crime.

Fabri did not give Odeh his opinion. However, a jury convicted Odeh in 2014. The prosecution, however, had set the scene for a successful appeal.

The Sixth Circuit judges said that they did not understand the general intent argument and unanimously reversed their convictions.

Judge Drain set the case for a retrial, where Fabri was expected to testify about Odeh’s torture and the alleged impact it had on Fabri’s naturalization answers.

At almost the last minute, however, Odeh decided to plead guilty, accepting virtually the same deal negotiated by Swor three years earlier—conviction of a felony, revocation of citizenship, and deportation. She and her allies attempted to twist the surrender by claiming weakly that they had put Israel’s human right record into the official court records.

Odeh had actually seen the text on the wall and so did her lawyers. Fabri’s testimony is subject to indictment for inconsistency. Odeh was also going to be the focus of the retrial because she admitted her membership in the PFLP. She was exhausted and trapped, so she gave up, despite the victory at appellate court.

Odeh was still going to anti-Israel rallies claiming she was forced into an “racist plea bargain” but it could not stop her eventual deportation in Sept 2017.