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Do the 'Torture Lawyers' Have Guilty Minds?: A Response to Jens Ohlin

12 Pages Posted: 1 May 2010 Last revised: 16 Nov 2010

John T. Parry

Lewis & Clark Law School

Date Written: May 1, 2010


In this paper, written for the Harvard International Law Journal Online, I respond to Jens Ohlin's important article, "The Torture Lawyers," which provides a forceful argument for the accomplice liability of Office of Legal Counsel attorneys who wrote legal opinions that facilitated coercive interrogation, including torture. The thrust of my response is to question the version of accomplice liability that Ohlin uses and to suggest that federal government lawyers who wrote opinions on the legality of coercive interrogation may have a viable mens rea failure of proof defense to criminal charges that are based on being accomplices to torture. I also suggest that the availability of such a defense is a direct consequence of the U.S. Senate's decision to require specific intent for the crime of torture, and I propose amending federal law to lower the mens rea to knowledge or general intent.

Suggested Citation

Parry, John T., Do the 'Torture Lawyers' Have Guilty Minds?: A Response to Jens Ohlin (May 1, 2010). Harvard International Law Journal Online, Vol. 51, p. 23, 2010; Lewis & Clark Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2010-16. Available at SSRN:

John T. Parry (Contact Author)

Lewis & Clark Law School ( email )

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