March 25, 2010

Law school faculty member wins fellowship

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- An assistant professor at the Southern Illinois University School of Law is the recipient of an academic fellowship that will focus on counter-terrorism, national security and international criminal law.

Lucian E. Dervan will travel to Israel in late May after being awarded a Foundation for Defense of Democracies Academic Fellowship. While in Israel, he will participate in an intense 10-day program that will focus on terrorism and its threat to democratic nations.

The first five days of the program take place in classroom settings at Tel Aviv University, where participants will meet with counter-terrorism scholars, military officers, intelligence officials, diplomats, and personnel from Israel, Jordan, India, Turkey and the United States, according to the organization’s Web site. Participants will spend the next five days traveling around the country visiting military bases, border zones and security installations.

“As has become evident since Sept. 11, 2001, counter-terrorism and national security will continue to become ever more important issues to the United States,” Dervan said. “Learning from countries, such as Israel, who have grappled with those national security issues for decades, offers a unique and valuable learning experience.”

Dervan teaches in the area of criminal law, including international criminal law. As part of his research, Dervan writes about counter-terrorism in the United States, including the prevalence of plea bargaining in terrorism prosecutions. In addition to aiding with his research, Dervan believes the insights and experiences the fellowship offers will be invaluable to students in his international criminal law course and will assist him as he develops a course regarding national security and counter-terrorism laws.

“This fellowship offers an intense and hands-on experience,” Dervan said. “It provides incredible access to the people and places where counter-terrorism policy is both developed and implemented. For that reason it’s a very competitive program, and I’m excited to be selected.”

Prior to joining the SIU School of Law, Dervan spent several years in private practice, including as a member of the King & Spalding Special Matters and Government Investigations team, a group established by former U.S. Attorney General Griffin B. Bell in 1989 to represent corporations and individuals in complex federal and state criminal investigations and to conduct internal corporate investigations. Among other things, as a member of that team Dervan participated in investigations regarding potential terrorist-financing operations.

Currently, Dervan is publishing a law review article, entitled “The Surprising Lessons from Plea Bargaining in the Shadow of Terror,” that examines the incentives that lead terrorists to plead guilty in the United States’ criminal justice system.

Some of the most interesting of these cases involve suicide bombers caught in the act, such as convicted terrorist Richard Reid, the notorious “Shoe Bomber,” he said.

In December 2001, passengers and flight crew aboard an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami subdued Reid as he attempted to ignite explosives hidden within the soles of his shoes. In analyzing documents in the case against Reid, it appears that Reid pleaded guilty to terrorism-related charges and accepted a life sentence to spare his family the stigma and financial and psychological costs of a lengthy and well-publicized trial, Dervan said.

“We have known for some time that the American plea bargaining machine held a great deal of power over defendants,” Dervan said. “This has been illustrated by the fact that over 95 percent of defendants in the federal system plead guilty. But it is still fascinating to see that the system and its incentives are powerful enough to encourage even a suicide bomber to admit guilt in open court and subject himself to the judgment of an American judicial figure.”

Dervan will present his findings regarding plea bargaining in terrorism cases as a speaker in the upcoming SIUC College of Liberal Arts and Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice conference on crime and terrorism, set for April 15 in the John C. Guyon Auditorium at Morris Library.