The Marshall Project

The Video Alibi

Where was Hamid Hayat?

The Pakistani witnesses, one after another, told the same story. For two years, Hamid Hayat never left their rural hamlet for more than a few days. He wasted his time playing video games and cricket instead of studying. He certainly never left to train with terrorists.

“If he had disappeared, would you have known?” Hayat’s lawyer, Dennis Riordan, asked Muhammad Anas.

“Naturally, I would have noticed,” said Anas, who is Hayat’s uncle.

Anas, a bespectacled, bearded teacher, peered into the Sacramento courtroom from an enormous video monitor. He was more than 7,000 miles away in a law office in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad.

The testimony, held in federal court in February, was a judge’s unusual resolution of a heated dispute in a high-profile terrorism appeal: How should a court handle a defendant’s request to present foreign testimony? The judge’s innovative answer — to let the Pakistani alibi witnesses appear by video — raises questions about how technology changes the search for truth.

“One of the things with the international dimension of terrorism cases

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