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The Bizarre World of FNL Gets Even Weirder

Reported by Nancy - August 16, 2005 -

Yesterday (8/15) on FNL, Bob Sellers was in for David Asman. Sellers is normally one of the better substitute anchors (& is certainly a vast improvement over Asman), but at the end of the program he lost his composure during what would have been an otherwise unremarkable interview.

At 12:51pm (EDT) Sellers interviewed Edward McMahon, a criminal defense attorney who was the court-appointed lawyer for Zacarias Moussaoui (the so-called "20th hijacker"). Sellers first established that McMahon had indeed been appointed by the court & had not "offered" to defend Moussaoui. He then observed that McMahon had had a first-hand view of how "the system" works & asked "does that make you want to fix the system?" McMahon rambled on a bit about how it took a long time to try the case. Sellers asked "What would you change?" McMahon replied that he wasn't sure what Sellers was asking about. Sellers clarified that he wanted to know if McMahon thought it would be a "good idea to have special attorneys for these cases." McMahon said "Sure" & pointed out that having special federal attorneys appointed to prosecute suspected terrorists would be "like organized crime & other specialties" already within the US Attorneys offices, adding that the Southern District of NY has had a special section for terror-related prosecutions "for a while" [comment: this unit was created, during the tenure of Mary Jo White, to prosecute the suspects in the first WTC attack]. Sellers said that one criticism from "civil rights people" was that "it took too long to prosecute Moussaoui." McMahon, who had already said that it took a long time to process this case, started to talk about "interest in justice" & the rights of the accused. Sellers got very annoyed & interrupted McMahon, accusing him of deliberately misunderstanding or misinterpreting his questions. McMahon stayed calm & said that the system is "designed to protect" the rights of the accused & that he "wouldn't change anything just so it would go faster." Sellers curtly ended the interview, in evident [tone of voice] frustration.

Comments: This was a very bizzarre interview, even for FNL. Why talk about Moussaoui now? His plea deal was agreed to back in April. Did Sellers (or whoever booked McMahon as the guest for this interview) expect McMahon to trash the DOJ? The court system? The Bill of Rights? The Constitution? It sounded like Sellers was (sort of) trying out the usual whiny fascist complaints about the rights of defendants in criminal proceedings, but asking a criminal defense attorney to collude in that seems to be a very strange way to go about it. Any theories from readers would be welcome.

NOTE TO READERS: Please stay on topic (Sellers's interview with McMahon, the Moussaoui case, FNL's coverage of it). O/T comments will be deleted. Thanks.