Guantánamos death penalty cases present Pohl with grave issues in a still-evolving system.
CIA torture is alleged some of the accused were waterboarded, threatened at gunpoint, sleebp deprived, hung by their wrists, had their families threatened. A jury of U.S. military officers decides guilt or innocence, life or death. Its Pohls job to decide what charges go to the jury and to make sure no evidence derived from abuse or worse is used at trial.
Pohl has yet to tip his hand on what hell do if hes confronted with proof that U.S. agents tortured a captive. By international law, its a war crime.
He has told defense lawyers itll be their job to instruct him on how to regard the treatment, what rules apply, and itll be his job to follow the law and the preferences given to me by counsel and as I interpret it.
Hansen predicts that Pohl will take the prosecution through the wringer to make sure no derivative evidence from coerced confessions comes in.
Earlier in their careers, Hansen was an Army prosecutor who worked opposite Pohl, who was taking a turn as defense attorney, typical of the Army legal career track. Hansen predicts the judge will be tough on both sides at the 9/11 trial.
Hes lived as a defense counsel in the Army, when youve got the whole prosecution against you. And so hes very good on keeping the governments feet to the fire.
Lawyers whove watched Pohl for years say he sweats the details, and demands the same of those who come to his court.
Privacy, wry wit
Pohls an intensely private man.
Friends likewise declined to answer the most innocuous human interest questions. Not even what he does when Army plays Navy, a football rivalry thats a rite.
Public records show that James Lancaster Pohl earns $10,557 a month plus a housing allowance. He turns 61 next month.
He has served a stint in Korea, at least five years in Germany and is now based at Fort Benning in Georgia, where he registered as a voter in September 2008.
Hes voted once since on Nov. 4, 2008, the historic elections that put the first African American in the White House.
Hes a 1974 graduate of UCLA, where records show he got a bachelor of science degree in psychology. He went up the road to Malibus Pepperdine University to get his law degree in 1978, and was admitted to the California Bar after Thanksgiving that year.
Several friends mentioned his hilarious sense of humor, which you only glimpse at court.
Once, a defense attorney invoked the estimate that it costs $800,000 a year per Guantánamo detainee and called it a monument to waste.
Pohl retorted: Lets say it is robustly resourced.
When a Saudi in his court pulled out a poster showing Obamas pledge to close Guantánamo, the judge dryly asked the mans attorney whether this should be marked as evidence.
For as many big cases as hes had, that hes tried, the man really is ego-less, said former Army Maj. Christopher Graveline, who prosecuted the Abu Ghraib case and left the military in 2006. Its never about him, its about doing the process and trying to reach a fair result.
So when Pohl was holding hearings in Baghdad and President Bush remarked back home that the prison should be demolished, the judge ruled for defense attorneys that the place needed protection.