Can New Yorkers Be Impartial In Terrorism Case? Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other suspects in the Sept. 11 attacks are to be transferred from Guantanamo Bay to New York for prosecution. The city may be prepared to tackle the security and logistics of the trial, but emotions will present a challenge.
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Can New Yorkers Be Impartial In Terrorism Case?

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Can New Yorkers Be Impartial In Terrorism Case?

Can New Yorkers Be Impartial In Terrorism Case?

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As President Obama warned of terrorism borne in Asia, New York began preparing for the trial of the men accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks. The Obama administration announced yesterday that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others would be transferred from the prison at Guantanamo Bay to New York City to face prosecution.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg says his city is prepared to handle the security challenges of a trial, but other challenges may be more difficult. NPR's Robert Smith got reaction on the decision from Ground Zero in lower Manhattan.

ROBERT SMITH: Larry Corbin is rushing to band practice - he's a jazz guitarist. Corbin was in the same sort of hurry on the morning of September 11th. He was down in the World Trade Center concourse, just a few blocks from where we're standing now. He was about to get on a subway train when the first plane hit.

Mr. LARRY CORBIN (Jazz Guitarist): And all I could think was, like, get to work, time to get to work. I didn't realize that, you know, the world was going to change as we know it.

SMITH: It would be hard to find a New Yorker who didn't feel their world changed that day, which is why Corbin is so surprised that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed would be sent here for a fair trial.

Mr. CORBIN: I personally think tarred, feathered and strung up and have people, like, you know, decimate the corpse. That's kind of what I think we should do with that guy.

SMITH: I'm not getting the vibe that you would be able to serve on the jury.

Mr. CORBIN: No, definitely not.

SMITH: How are they going to find someone who can serve on a jury here in New York?

Mr. CORBIN: To find somebody to turn a blind eye to something like this and having a completely impartial point of view is probably next to impossible, I would think.

SMITH: Especially with Ground Zero still a pit of construction. It's a daily reminder of the crime for millions of New Yorkers and the tourists who come down to see it. Jason Sipe(ph) from North Carolina noted that the federal courthouse where the men will be tried is only a few blocks here. Sipe is fine with the trial going on, but he doesn't want Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to be allowed to see Ground Zero.

Mr. JASON SIPE: They can, you know, I did this, you know? I would make him go straight to the courthouse and wouldn't, you know, let him see actually what had happened here.

SMITH: Because you think he'd take pleasure in that?

Mr. SIPE: Yes, yes, definitely. I think he would definitely take pleasure in that.

SMITH: The tourists who have come down to see the site of the terrorist attacks weren't too familiar with the name Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and it's no wonder. There are two temporary interpretive centers at Ground Zero and neither talks about the hijackers or the planners of 9/11 or why they did what they did.

Scott Justiset(ph), visiting from Chicago, says that bringing the trial here can be important in that way. People will be able to hear what really happened and see someone held responsible.

Mr. SCOTT JUSTISET: You get that sense that we need closure in all these events that are tragic or otherwise personally affect our own country. And I think that that closure is what we're looking for at this point.

SMITH: It's just going to take a while. It could be years before the case against these men goes to trial, and that's what has Wayne Simpson from Atlanta, Georgia concerned.

Mr. WAYNE SIMPSON: Bringing them to New York is going to create too much of a circus around the event and the trial. Leave him wheres he at and let the military try him.

SMITH: But the circus parade is just about ready to leave the tent. The man accused of planning the most deadly terrorist attack in U.S. history could be in New York City within months, and Larry Corbin says every New Yorker will be watching.

Mr. CORBIN: Of course. It's like a lot of, like, mental energy is going to be focused on this particular subject based on this history of what happened.

SMITH: Robert Smith, NPR News, New York.

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