Monday, January 5, 2015

Boston Gears Up for Bombing Trial

The past couple weeks have been strange, with the defense for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev filing a motion to keep protesters who were supporting their client away from the courthouse! (?) Tsarnaev’s attorneys oddly argued that the presence of demonstrators, whose arguments vary, would rob Tsarnaev of his right to a fair trial. The defense again frantically requested for a third time a change of venue the late afternoon of New Year’s Eve,arguing that “every member of the jury pool is, in effect, an actual victim of the charged offenses.”

Judge O’Toole routinely denied the defense request at the advice of the prosecution, who insisted that the trial should be conducted in the community most affected by the bombing. "Moving the trial out of the Eastern Division would create an enormous hardship for those victims and their families, depriving many, if not most of them, of any ability to see the trial."

Harvey Silvergate writes in the Boston Globe, “The Oklahoma City bombing prosecution furnishes an instructive precedent that strongly suggests that Tsarnaev should not be tried in Massachusetts. It is a precedent that O’Toole has recklessly misread and misrepresented in denying a venue change… O’Toole ignores yet another precedent, this one right in his own back yard.”

Boston Judge Wolf decided to postpone the sentencing trial of Gary Lee Sampson, who was convicted in 2003 of the carjack killings of three men, Silvergate continues, “out of an abundance of caution, erring on the side of a fair trial that is supposed to be the norm especially when the death penalty hangs in the balance. O’Toole instead is erring on the side of expedition. Efficiency can be overrated when justice, and our own adherence to civilized and constitutional norms, hang in the balance.”

After being found guilty, Sampson was sent to New Hampshire for execution, since Massachusetts does not allow the death penalty. If a Bostonian can be found guilty in Massachusetts and executed in New Hampshire, why can’t a Bostonian get his trial moved to New Hampshire, where the libertarian population is more likely to question the FBI’s story?

Bostonians are largely debating the death penalty vs. life in prison rather than innocence vs. guilt. A 2013 Boston Globe poll found that 57% of Bostonians favored life without parole for Tsarnaev, while 33% favored death.

Jury selection is expected to begin on Monday, January 5, 2014.

Attorney Judy Clarke has made overtures to prosecutors about a plea bargain, according to a lawyer close to the case. But so far she has been rebuffed, reports the NY Times. Imprisoned friend Stephen Silva is expected to confess to selling or giving a gun with an obliterated serial number to the Tsarnaevs in February 2013, due to FBI evidence against him obtained by the wiretapping of an informant, two months before the April events. Media insinuates, but court documents do not clearly link the gun to the killing of MIT officer Sean Collier.

The official prosecution narrative centers on the story that Tsarnaev, angry about the killing of Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan, scrawled incriminating messages (“Stop killing our innocent people and we will stop”) on the inside of the boat where he was captured. This message appeared about three weeks after his arrest, just in time for the grand jury hearing, and is therefore rather suspect as evidence. I think it is baloney that Jahar just happened to have a Sharpie and suddenly began to compose a manifesto after having been shot multiple times.

What is important to acknowledge though, is that Bostonians, and the American people in general, are desperate to execute Tsarnaev as a terrorist rather than to pity him as a wayward teen - BECAUSE of the erroneous belief that he was retaliating against America for propagating massacres overseas. BECAUSE of the deep dark guilt inside the American conscience. The hysteria that this kind of propaganda arouses points to a dark side of American ignorance and exceptionalism. The idea that a Muslim kid might say that retaliation is justified makes this a high profile case. He might even end up publicly hanged on TV like Saddam Hussein (God forbid)! But what about the random jerk off his meds who guns down a classroom? Not news. The United States is treating Tsarnaev like a scapegoat that they can just load up with all their baggage and send him out to the desert to “take away the sins of the world.”

Indeed if Tsarnaev had committed bombings in the name of Islam, in retaliation for Muslim deaths overseas, he would be protected by international law. The United Nations could recognize him as a political prisoner and he would enjoy certain rights enforceable by the international community. If Tsarnaev is truly an Islamic jihad terrorist, where is his legal support? Where is his army? There is none because he never was a jihadi despite some general interest in Islamic causes such as sympathy for Gaza and Syria. He also has no background of crime or any issue that would consider him to be a disturbed youth. He was a lifeguard, who volunteered to help handicapped kids. He was a well adjusted and very popular kid. 

Is that what this trial is going to boil down to? The right of a well-adjusted American kid to openly care about Muslim suffering?

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