Among his many other undesirable qualities, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has a truly perverted notion of justice.
The surviving Boston Marathon bombing suspect — charged in an attack that killed three people, wounded 260 others and briefly paralyzed a city — didn’t want to face a jury of his peers in Boston. He asked for a change of venue to Washington, D.C., where opinion polls cited by his defense team show that there is less support for putting him to death if convicted of the murders he is charged with. His request was denied this week by US District Judge George O’Toole Jr., who will preside at the trial.
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Still it was rich, the idea of Tsarnaev questioning whether the people of Boston can treat him fairly. He was asking for a lot more compassion than the bombers showed the countless people near the finish line that day, many of whom still suffer with the physical and emotional aftermath of the attack that day in April 2013.
Tsarnaev and his attorneys recycled the tired argument that the jury pool is contaminated because intense media scrutiny has made it impossible to find a dozen jurors who don’t have an opinion about his innocence.
It is true that setting off bombs at the Marathon finish line, as Tsarnaev and his brother Tamerlan are believed to have done, is the kind of activity that attracts a lot of media attention. Absolutely, dropping two bombs in a crowd on Boylston Street has incited an intense reaction. Isn’t that what the bombers were after?
Frankly, I was disappointed that O’Toole approved the defense motion to move the trial back two months, to January 2015, even as he chided the defense for failing to disclose its strategy. He reminded the defense that a trial is not a poker game in which players get to conceal their cards. He’s right, of course; transparency is essential to fair trials.
But, speaking of poker, Tsarnaev’s lawyers don’t have much of a hand to play. Their main strategy, as far as anyone can discern, has simply been one of delay. The court shouldn’t help them do that. The victims of the bombing and their families have waited long enough for justice.
But, procedural issues aside, I’m most offended by the implication that Tsarnaev can’t expect justice here.
In fact, the Marathon attacks have, remarkably, brought out the best in the people of this region. Just take a look at the work of One Fund Boston or the continuing outpouring of support for the Richard family of Dorchester, whose selflessness in the face of devastation has inspired so many.
Yes, the Marathon attacks unleashed a perfectly legitimate sense of righteous anger.
But it also united the people of this city in a way that’s hard to remember.
Despite what he seems to think, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is not entitled to a jury of patsies who will buy his tales of having been controlled by his now-dead brother. Neither is he entitled to a jury of people who aren’t emotionally invested in seeing Boston move beyond the Marathon tragedy.
What he is due, constitutionally and morally, is 12 people who will fairly weigh the evidence presented and decide on an appropriate punishment. I have no doubt at all that he will get that in his South Boston courtroom.
Many believe the request for a change of scenery was less about Tsarnaev’s trial than his eventual sentencing. He is the rare Massachusetts defendant who could face the prospect of a federal death sentence.
As it happens, I’m an absolutist on capital punishment; like most Massachusetts residents, I’m against it.
I suspect that Tsarnaev, if convicted, could well be spared death. A jury might well decide that his ultimate punishment would be to spend the rest of his life living with himself.
Here is a look at what you need to know about the Boston Marathon terror attack. On April 15, 2013, double bombings near the finish line of the Boston Marathon killed three people and injured at least 264.
Facts: The bombs exploded 12 seconds apart near the marathon’s finish line on Boylston Street.
According to Richard DesLauriers, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston office, the bombs contained BB-like pellets and nails.
The bombs were contained in pressure cookers, hidden inside backpacks, according to the FBI.
The Department of Homeland Security issued a warning in 2004 about pressure cooker bombs. Instructions for making this type of explosive are widely available on the Internet.
Victims: Martin Richard, 8, a student at Neighborhood House Charter School in Boston.
Krystle Campbell, 29, of Medford, Massachusetts.
Lingzi Lu, a graduate student at Boston University. She was originally from China.
Timeline: April 15, 2013 - At approximately 2:50 pm, two bombs explode near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The bombs explode within 8-12 seconds of each other, about 50-100 yards apart.
At 6:10 pm, President Barack Obama speaks to reporters at the White House, “We will find out who did this. We’ll find out why they did this. Any responsible individuals, any responsible groups, will feel the full weight of justice.”
April 16, 2013 - President Obama, speaking at the White House at 11:30 a.m., describes the bombings as an act of terrorism.
Frederic Wittman, chairman of the board of trustees of the Neighborhood House Charter School in Boston, confirms that one of the people killed is 8-year-old Martin Richard. Richard’s sister and mother are hospitalized with serious injuries.
Michael McGlynn, mayor of Medford, Massachusetts confirms that one of the people killed in the attack is 29-year-old Krystle Campbell.
Boston University and the Chinese consulate in New York confirm that the third victim is a female graduate student from China. At the request of her parents, her name is not released at that time.
Officials confirm that there were only two bombs, despite earlier reports that other unexploded devices had been found.
Authorities including bomb experts search an apartment in Revere, Massachusetts, and remove items. Officials caution that there are no clear suspects and the motive remains unknown.
April 17, 2013 - A federal law enforcement official tells CNN that the lid to a pressure cooker thought to have been used in the bombings has been found on a rooftop at the scene.
The name of the third victim is released by Boston University: Lingzi Lu, a graduate student studying math and statistics.
Purported miscommunications between government officials lead several news organizations, including CNN, to report prematurely that a suspect has been arrested and is in custody.
April 18, 2013 - President Obama attends an interfaith memorial service inside the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. About 2,000 people fill the cathedral, The Boston Globe reports, with about half the seats reserved for the public. The audience also includes scores of police officers and other first responders.
Attorney Kenneth Feinberg, considered the world’s foremost expert on victim compensation, is announced as the administrator of The One Fund Boston, a fund to assist individuals affected by the attacks.
At a press conference, the FBI releases pictures of two male suspects they are seeking in connection with the bombings.
Late in the evening, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer named Sean Collier is shot and killed on campus, allegedly by the bombing suspects.
April 19, 2013 - In the early morning hours, the suspected bombers allegedly hijack a car in Cambridge. The driver is released about 30 minutes later. As the police chase the suspects, the car’s occupants throw explosives out the windows and exchange gunfire with officers. One of the suspected bombers is apprehended, but authorities say the other suspect retrieves a vehicle and runs over him as police attempt to handcuff him. The suspect is wounded and later dies at Beth Israel Hospital. He had bullet wounds and injuries from an explosion according to officials.
Boston police identify the bombing suspects as 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev and 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, brothers from Cambridge, Massachusetts. They are of Chechen origin and legally immigrated to the U.S. at different times. Tamerlan Tsarnaev has been identified as the person killed in the encounter with police earlier in the morning, while Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a student at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, remains at large.
Throughout the day, hundreds of law enforcement officers go door-to-door on 20 streets in Watertown, looking for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who authorities believe is still in Massachusetts. Boston-area residents are asked by authorities to stay inside as the hunt continues for the suspect.
Between 6 and 7 pm, Watertown resident David Henneberry goes out for air and to inspect his boat soon after the lockdown is lifted, and sees, “a man covered with blood under a tarp.”
8:15 pm - Authorities announce they have a person they believe to be Dzhokhar Tsarnaev cornered on a boat in a yard in Watertown, Massachusetts. At some point, law enforcement agents are able to seize the suspect. He is transported to a local hospital in serious condition.
April 20, 2013 - A Justice Department official tells CNN that federal terrorism charges against Boston Marathon bombings suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev could be filed soon, even as he remains hospitalized. The 19-year-old could also face murder charges at the state level. There is no death penalty in Massachusetts, but Tsarnaev could face that punishment at the federal level.
April 22, 2013 - Tsarnaev is charged by the U.S. government with one count of using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death and one count of malicious destruction of property by means of an explosive device resulting in death.
May 1, 2013 - Three 19-year-olds are arrested in connection with the bombings. The three men are accused of helping bombing suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev after the bombing. Federal prosecutors say Azamat Tazhayakov, Dias Kadyrbayev, and Robel Phillipos took items from Tsarnaev’s dorm room after the bombing to throw investigators off their friend’s trail. Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev are foreign nationals charged with obstruction of justice, they were both initially held on unrelated visa issues. Phillipos is an American citizen and is charged with lying to federal agents.
May 2, 2013 - The body of Tamerlan Tsarnaev is claimed, and is picked up by a funeral home, according to Terrel Harris, spokesman for the Massachusetts Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
May 6, 2013 - Robel Phillipos is released into his mother’s custody on $100,000 bail.
May 9, 2013 - Tamerlan Tsarnaev is buried in a Muslim cemetery in Doswell, Virginia. This is after cemeteries in Massachusetts and elsewhere refuse to allow his burial.
May 22, 2013 - An FBI agent shoots and kills Ibragim Todashev in Orlando, Florida while questioning him about his relationship with Tamerlan Tsarnaev after cell phone records connect the two. Todashev tells the agent that Tsarnaev participated in a 2011 gruesome triple homicide that was drug related. The confrontation between the FBI agent and Todashev turns violent after Todashev lunges at the agent with a weapon, according to a law enforcement source.
July 10, 2013 - Dzhokhar Tsarnaev pleads not guilty to 30 federal charges related to the April attacks
July 18, 2013 - In response to a Rolling Stone magazine cover, Police Sgt. Sean Murphy releases photos of a bloody Dzhokhar Tsarnaev from the day of his capture.
August 13, 2013 - Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov plead not guilty to conspiracy to obstruct justice and obstructing justice with intent to impede authorities.
August 19, 2013 - The testimony of the trauma surgeon who treated Tsarnaev is unsealed, revealing the extent of his wounds, including multiple gun shot wounds that pierced the base of his skull, mouth and vertebrae. Unsealed documents also reveal that Tsarnaev was not read his Miranda rights until three days after he was detained.
September 13, 2013 - Robel Phillipos pleads not guiltyto making false statements to federal officials, and Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov reenter their not guilty pleas. Tamerlan Tsarneav’s in-laws appear before a federal grand jury in Boston. Details of the four-hour session are not immediately released.
October 21, 2013 - In a court document, prosecutors in the Boston Marathon bombing case publicly confirm that deceased suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev was accused of participating in a gruesome 2011 triple homicide outside Boston.
January 30, 2014 - A notice is filed with a federal court after U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder says that federal prosecutors will seek the death penalty against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
May 30, 2014 - Authorities arrest Khairullozhon Matanov of Quincy, Massachusetts and charge him with “one count of destroying, altering, and falsifying records, documents, and tangible objects in a federal investigation, specifically information on his computer, and three counts of making materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements in a federal terrorism investigation.” Allegedly, Matanov was a friend of the Tsarnaev brothers and ate dinner with them after the bombing.
August 21, 2014 - Dias Kadyrbayev pleads guilty to obstructing justice. As part of the plea agreement, a sentence of seven years will be recommended by the U.S. attorney, and Kadyrbayev, a Kazakh national, has agreed to be deported after serving his sentence.
Upcoming Events: January 5, 2015 - Scheduled date of trial for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
(Left to Right): Peter Buffett, Jimmie Briggs, Joe Ehrmann, Tony Porter,
Dave Zirin and Moderator Eve Ensler.