Almost immediately after we put up our quick post on CIA contractor Raymond Davis being pardoned by relatives of the men he shot, and thus "acquitted," a few readers complained on Twitter. "Pakistani Court Acquits CIA Contractor of Two Murders" is a "misleading" headline, one complained.
So we looked into the matter. Here's the problem with calling it "misleading": it is and it isn't.
The word "acquitted" comes from the Punjab law minister: "The court acquitted him in the murder case," Minister Rana Sanaullah told Reuters. Of course, we associate the word "acquitted" in the U.S. with the idea of someone's name being cleared, a certain popular and legal assumption of innocence.
That's not really what happened in Pakistan, where "blood money" was delivered to the families of those shot and killed, leading to their pardoning Raymond Davis, who was then freed. On the other hand, going with Yahoo's headline: "Pakistan releases CIA contractor after ‘blood money' deal," is problematic, too: though "blood money" is exactly what was exchanged, the use of the term here has a certain shock value, lending a note of barbarism or exceptionalism to the case. Or, as journalist Pakistan researcher for Amnesty International, Mustafa Qadri put it on Twitter: "Blood money sounds so much more terrifying, Islamic and tribal than compensation doesn't it?"
In other words, just as "Pakistani court acquits CIA contractor of two murders" leads the reader towards a certain conclusion, "Pakistan releases CIA contractor after 'blood money' deal" might do the same, with neither Pakistan nor the CIA coming out looking very good. The fact is that the deal wasn't actually extra-legal--in common parlance, "sketchy"--by Pakistani standards; there's reportedly a specific provision in Pakistani law for relatives to be compensated, then pardoning the offender and, effectively, "acquitting" him.
So the settlement, in and of itself, is not an exceptional one. It does appear, however, that this unexceptional solution was forced upon a highly exceptional problem: the diplomatic mess over this matter has evidently been pretty impressive, and there's some evidence the victims were forced to accept the deal--that's what one of the lawyers told Reuters. If that's true--to switch back to street language for a second--it would considerably up the "sketchiness" factor, at least from our admittedly far-removed American generalist perspective.