THE HEADLINES could tell you that all 12 men had been convicted - the 12 on trial for various crimes committed during the Hanafi takeover of three buildings in Washington last March. But the verdicts rendered by the jury of 10 women and two men during 19 hours of deliberation last week were much too complicated for headline reading alone. You had to read the news accounts with great care to understand exactly which of the defendants had been found guilty of what specific crime. The Hanafi Muslim leader, Hamaas Abdul Khaalis, who directed the takeover of the three Washington buildings, was the only defendant convicted of the whole array of crimes committed at all three sites: second-degree murder, conspiracy, 24 armed kidnapings and three assaults. For each of the others, the jury painstakingly specified the particular offenses and fitted its verdict to the individual responsibility of the defendants as closely as it could.
It struck us in reading the news accounts of this elaborate verdict that the jurors could not have found a more telling way to dramatize the difference between the values of the law and the values of terrorism. What happened on that horrifying day in March, when Khaalis's group took over part of the District Building, the B'nai B'rith headquarters and the Islamic Center, was an exercise in hysteria, scape-goating, aimless and violent "retribution." Randomly chosen victims who were, in the first instance, victims of the accident of having been around when Khaalis's men struck, were variously beaten, shot, killed in one case, and generally terorized and abused - all in the name of exacting some kind of payment for crimes the group felt had been committed against it by other people for whom these victims were to be stand-ins and substitutes.
That is a central feature of terrorism: the refusal to make distinctions between the innocent and the guilty or among broad groups and classes of people one has designated the "enemy." At bottom it denies the individuality, even the individual humanity, of its victims. For such things are of no account to the hostage-taker, to the beater-up of proxie enemies. But the concept of the individual lies at the heart of the law. The 12 jurors in the Hanafi case understood this. They made their decisions in accord with it. And in doing so they both illustrated and reaffirmed the vitality of the law. We think D.C. Superior Court Judge Nicholas Nunzio had it just right in his parting remarks to the jury. "If I may speak in the vernacular," he said, "you've done one hell of a job."