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 awarded 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.

However, even a politicized defense has to address the falsities on the naturalization form.

Odeh had the good fortune to live in Chicago, which was home of one of the foremost authorities on torture victims. Mary Fabri had previously been the Kovler Center’s director for Torture Treatment Services and International Training. She also had experience consulting on issues such as torture in Haiti, Rwanda and Guatemala. Odeh was confirmed to have suffered from PTSD by her meeting with her over 18 hours and six sessions.

Fabri, a psychologist who was trained to treat victims, had unquestioningly accepted Odeh’s fabrications and exaggerations, and credulously repeated them in her long 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.

Fabri’s constant improvement in her assessment was worse. While initially she stated only that there was “a strong possibility” Odeh misinterpreted the naturalization forms’ questions but then admitted to, “I’m not sure what happened in her head.”

Fabri’s opinion grew as the case developed. She finally applied her new PTSD filtering theory to determine that “Ms. Odeh was not lying on the citizenship test, but rather interpreted them to be applicable only to her U.S.A. life.”

Fabri’s testimony was successfully thrown out by the prosecution, relying on its convoluted theory of expert psychological testimony being inadmissible for a crime with “general intent”.

Fabri was not able to give his opinion and Odeh was convicted in 2014. However, the prosecution unwittingly created the conditions 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 was scheduled to retry the case, and Fabri would be called as a witness about Odeh’s tortured testimony. Fabri could also testify regarding Odeh’s alleged effects on Fabri’s answers during the naturalization process.

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. The surrender was twisted by her allies who claimed that they had made Israel’s human rights records public.

Odeh, along with her attorneys, had indeed seen the graffiti on the wall. Fabri’s testimony is subject to indictment for inconsistency. Odeh’s admission of PFLP membership was to be at the centre of the retrial, as the indictment by the prosecution superseded. She was exhausted and trapped, so she gave up, despite the victory at appellate court.

Odeh was still going to anti-Israel rallies despite the fact that she claimed that she was made into a racist plea bargain but it could not stop her eventual deportation in Sept 2017.