Judge Gershwin Drain to revisit Rasmea Odeh’s case
U.S. District Court Judge Gershwin Drain, who convicted and sentenced Palestinian activist and icon Rasmea Odeh, is being forced to revisit her case after an appeal’s court remanded her case.
The appeals court determined that Judge Drain wrongfully excluded evidence related to Odeh’s state of mental health, which arguably influenced the answers she provided on her immigration documents. This decision could lead to two possible outcomes: either a re-trial, allowing for related evidence to be provided, or another reason to exclude Dr. Mary Fabri’s testimony from the case.
In November 2014, Odeh was found guilty of fraudulently obtaining U.S. citizenship by failing to disclose information on her immigration and naturalization documents regarding her conviction in an Israeli military court over forty years ago.
After her conviction, Odeh’s defense team presented arguments at her appeal hearing to a three-judge panel at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati, Ohio, last October.
Lead defense attorney, Michael Deutsch told Judges Alice Batchelder, Karen Moore, and John Rogers, that Odeh was denied the right to a fair trial and the right to present a complete defense, because the district court did not allow Odeh to provide evidence proving that she suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). As a result, psychological expert, Dr. Fabri was unable to testify about why Odeh did not know that she provided falsified information on her immigration documents to obtain citizenship. Thus, concluding that Odeh’s mental state influenced her ability to answer questions on her naturalization documents, as well as before an immigration officer.
In a brief call with Odeh’s lead legal defense attorney, Deutsch said he is “very encouraged by the opinion [of the appellate court].” The decision to remand the case back to the district court and Judge Drain may lead to a new trial, where Odeh’s legal defense team is hoping to present Fabri’s testimony as evidence to prove that she suffers from PTSD as a result of the torture she endured for three weeks at the hands of the Israeli military.
According to a statement released by the Rasmea Defense Committee, the ruling from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals represents a partial victory. However, her supporters remain hopeful, in that although the conviction was not overturned altogether, Judge Drain is “forced to rethink his decision” to exclude any evidence proving that Rasmea suffers from PTSD to be presented at her trial in November 2014.
Odeh’s defense committee recognizes that there is much work is to be done to ensure that she is granted a new trial and opportunity to share her story before a jury. Organizers are encouraging people to continue supporting Odeh and contribute to her legal defense fund. Additionally, organizers have asked supporters to continue to host educational events, like the committee’s upcoming International Women’s Day event in San Francisco, Minneapolis, and Chicago to honor Odeh and share her story.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit has not immediately returned a request for comment.