Editor’s Note: Karin Friedemann is a TMO columnist. The views expressed here are her own.
Accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is shown in a courtroom sketch next to Judge George O’Toole on the first day of jury selection at the federal courthouse in Boston, January 5, 2015. REUTERS/Jane Flavell Collins
A trial says as much about the people holding it as it does about the person who is on trial. What will this trial say about Boston? Will Boston’s noble heritage be disgraced or upheld? As jury selection begins this week in Dzhokhar’ Tsarnaev’s trial, let us ask ourselves: what would John Adams do? Put simply, he would defend the accused Boston Marathon bomber.
John Adams, an attorney and revolutionary, insisted upon representing the British soldiers that gunned down rioters in the spring of 1770, so that they would not be lynched by a mob but rather, receive a fair trial. It is the historical tradition of Boston, to uphold the Constitution and Bill of Rights no matter how severe the crime. Indeed, Adams gave such an impassioned speech at the trial that the jury, rather than execute the unpopular defendants, was moved to acquit 6 of the 8 soldiers and reduce the charges of the remaining two to manslaughter. The strong defense of even one’s political enemies not only demonstrated the future US President’s moral character but forms the basis of Constitutional law.
The most basic concept of the fair trial is that the defendant shall be presumed innocent until proven guilty. I have been in attendance at nearly every pre-trial hearing for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and I can assure the public that no meaningful evidence has been revealed. Most everything remains in sealed documents that have not yet been discussed. Therefore, any opinion that any person claims to have about the case, if not obtained from court documents, has been obtained illegitimately via made-for-TV movies that never claimed to be more than fiction. The amount of arrogant, willful ignorance amongst the jury pool is sickening.
Many tweets are circulating that demonstrate extreme prejudice:
“I’m just gonna say this… I hope #Tsarnaev gets shanked tonight so we don’t have to go through this trial.. #sorrynotsorry”
“Jury duty coming up. Really hoping for the Tsarnaev case so someone can deliver him a fair chance at the electric chair.”
“So Pamela has to report for federal jury duty on Monday. 1st day of the Boston bomber trial voir dire. Can’t believe it. Yeah, we’re prejudiced!”
Harvey Silvergate argues in the Boston Globe that due to the prevalence of such extreme sentiments among the locals who were personally affected by the bombings, Judge O’Toole ought to have moved Tsarnaev’s trial out of Boston, “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.” He further states: “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.”
I can think of no greater stupidity than to allow “blind faith” in a man’s guilt sway a trial of this importance to our nation. This is a huge test of what the Founding Fathers stood for. We must insist on clear evidence, not hearsay, not doctored photos, not unsubstantiated news reports, no secret evidence – Bostonians deserve to watch not only a fair trial but proceedings that seek to “unravel the mystery” of the bombings. All we know for sure right now is that we don’t know anything. No bomb making materials were found in either brother’s apartment. The FBI claims they “don’t know” where the bombs were made. Does the prosecution even have a case? This is a valuable question, based in our Bill of Rights.
Even if the Tsarnaev brothers are guilty of some or all of the charges, it’s still important to ask deeper questions, like who put them up to it. The truth could be rather complex. MLFA attorney Charles Swift opined: “Just because the government is lying doesn’t mean the defendant is innocent.” I fear that this rush to declare the kid guilty and then execute him is covering up a much bigger story. Even if the bigger story is just that law enforcement failed miserably and then tried to cover its mistakes by exaggerating the “Islamic threat,” embellishing and inflating the story into mythical proportions in order to explain their inability to protect the public from harm.
The Massachusetts Constitution, Article XIII states that “In criminal prosecutions, the verification of facts in the vicinity where they happen, is one of the greatest securities of the life, liberty, and property of the citizen.”
Unfortunately, the government has worked overtime to remove the evidence from the scene. The mailbox, the tree that were hit with shards of shrapnel have been removed so that we cannot determine the direction of the blast. Officer Collier’s car has been refurbished and put back into use, the boat where Tsarnaev was captured has been removed from the property and replaced with a new boat, witnesses have been deported and jailed, intimidated or killed/died mysteriously; including law enforcement witnesses! Will the truth ever come out? If so, how?
Boston should stand strong and insist that the government follow the laws of our land and actually demonstrate the veracity of its accusations with hard evidence. If we allow murderous hysteria to take over Boston, then we are acting in the tradition of Salem.