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Lindh defense lawyers renew effort to get confession thrown out

John Walker Lindh  

From Bob Franken

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Fresh from a completely unsuccessful day in court Monday, attorneys for John Walker Lindh Tuesday filed new motions attacking the government case against the native Californian who was captured in Afghanistan while fighting for the Taliban.

The day after federal Judge T.S. Ellis denied all motions to dismiss the charges against Lindh or to change the location of the trial, the defense Tuesday focused on what many consider to be its best shot -- the effort to suppress what the government has described as a confession that Lindh made to the military while in custody of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

The statement by Lindh during interrogation is considered vital to the prosecution.

But the defense motions argue the government had a constitutional obligation to bring Lindh before a judge and outline reasons to hold him -- all within 48 hours.

"In defiance of the law and with full knowledge that John Lindh had representation, the government intentionally prolonged bringing him before a judge, while blocking messages from counsel. It's calculated purpose was to interrogate him unchecked," the motion said.

"Taliban American" soldier John Walker Lindh loses his bid for a change of venue and status as a combatant. CNN's Bob Franken reports (June 17)

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Defendant's motion alleging combat immunity 
U.S. opposition to changing venue  (FindLaw documents, PDF format)
Timeline: The John Walker Lindh case 
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The defense contends it took U.S. officials 55 days to fulfill their obligation and bring Lindh before a magistrate.

"If the government fails to bring a suspect before a magistrate within six hours of apprehension, any subsequent statements must be suppressed," the defense lawyers argued.

Walker Lindh, 21, was taken into custody by the U.S. military after a bloody prison uprising, which began in late November in Afghanistan. During that uprising, CIA agent Mike Spann was killed.

He has pleaded not guilty to a 10-count indictment that includes charges of conspiring to kill Americans overseas, providing support to al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, and using firearms and other destructive devices during crimes of violence.

If convicted of all the charges, Walker Lindh could receive up to three life sentences, plus 90 years in prison

The trial is scheduled to start in late August.

Tuesday's motions were accompanied by more than 100 pages of transcripts and newspaper articles, including an interview of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld by CNN's Larry King, Senate testimony from Attorney General John Ashcroft, and other exhibits that the lawyers said demonstrated the administration was well aware of Lindh's circumstances.

"The government," said the defense lawyers, "intentionally delayed bringing Mr. Lindh before a neutral party to wring involuntary statements from him."

Quoting a legal precedent, they said, "This tactic has long been condemned as one of the 'easy but self-defeating ways in which brutality is substituted for brains as an instrument of crime detection.' "

The defense motion concludes: "All statements Mr. Lindh purportedly made after December 3, 2001, must be suppressed." December 3 is the first day they claim Lindh was questioned.

This matter is scheduled for a hearing July 15 in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia.




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