Why a Silk Road Retrial is Necessary 

By Kate Knibbs on at

It only took a few hours for a jury to convict Ross Ulbricht of running the infamous online drug marketplace Silk Road, so the urge to write off Ulbricht's lawyer's bid for a retrial as a desperate move is understandable. But desperate or not, a retrial is important, and it should be granted. Because the FBI evidence that led to Ulbricht's guilt may not have been collected legally.

The crux of defence attorney Joshua Dratchel's argument for a retrial is this: the government did not provide exculpatory evidence in a timely manner, and based on that evidence, the defence should be able to look at whether the government broke the law in the ways that it collected other information. According to the filing, the evidence that the government turned over late in the game shows that "the government was conducting warrantless TOR surveillance."

If the government did conduct illegal warrantless surveillance, allowing that evidence in court was unconstitutional to US law. Not allowing the defence to properly state their case, concerning how questionable the terms of defence we, sent a message that it's OK for law enforcement to skirt the law when they're snooping on suspects, which is basically the exact opposite messages courts should be sending.

The United States has a government surveillance problem. The courts are one of the public's only defences against giving agencies like the FBI unfettered powers of surveillance, so it's deeply messed up that a court wouldn't take every opportunity to check those powers.

It's not that Ulbricht deserves a new trial because he's innocent. Hell, there is uncontested evidence that makes him look really bad. He deserves one because the US government's surveillance techniques should've been looked at here.

This culminated in allowing the FBI to produce evidence without confirming that it was obtained legally. And even though Ulbricht was the one on trial, governments still needsto be held accountable for their actions. A defence can only rest if a defence is allowed in the first place.

Image: AP