The following is from the Oct. 22, 2007, edition of The Houston Chronicle. Jeffrey Kahn, a constitutional law professor in SMU's Dedman School of Law, provided expert commentary for this story.
By DAVID KOENIG
Associated Press Writer
DALLAS — A judge declared a mistrial Monday for most former leaders of a Muslim charity charged with financing Middle Eastern terrorists after jurors failed to reach a verdict.
One of the defendants, former Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development Chairman Mohammed El-Mezain, was acquitted of most charges.
The outcome came about an hour after a confusing scene in the courtroom, in which three former leaders of the group were initially found not guilty on most counts. But when jurors were polled, three said those verdicts were read incorrectly.
In all, five former Holy Land leaders and the charity were accused of providing aid to the Middle Eastern militant group Hamas. The U.S. government designated Hamas a terrorist group in 1995 and again in 1997, making financial transactions with the group illegal. . .
Their (prosecurtors') contention hung largely on the word of one witness, a lawyer for the Israeli domestic security agency Shin Bet, who was allowed to testify under a pseudonym, Avi.
"A lot rested on how believable the jury found him and how concerned they were of not really knowing who he was," said Jeffrey Kahn, a constitutional law professor at Southern Methodist University and former civil lawyer for the Justice Department.
Kahn said he had never heard of another case in which an expert witness testified anonymously, and that it could have be grounds for appealing convictions.
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