Sunday, April 21, 2013

How we know Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is just a garden variety criminal defendant




"He lost his rights the moment he killed people"

"He's clearly guilty, so a trial is a waste of time"

"He's a waste of oxygen"

Read any crime story on any internet site and you will find these words in the comments section. People will say these things about people accused of child molestation, rape, robbery, murder, whatever. They'll also rant about the scumbag lawyers who defend these subhumans, the criminal justice system that grants them more rights than the victims, the "technicalities" that threaten to set these guys loose. Undoubtedly, they'll proclaim that those who have the nerve to defend the rule of law, due process, the 4th, 5th, and 6th Amendments, would feel very differently if our own loved ones had been the victims.

This weekend, we're seeing all of these comments being made about the surviving Boston bombing suspect.

And my responses have been the same. Constitutional rights apply to all people, regardless of how heinous the accused crime is. The Constitution is not a technicality. I'd feel the same because I'm committed to the rule of law. We can't allow our baser emotions to take control such that we abandon our most fundamental principles, etc.

And the big one I always repeat to those who say a trial is a waste of time or who would already label a suspect a murder, a molester, a terrorist: Who gets to decide which cases are so clear-cut on guilt that we can skip the trial? If there is some class of cases wherein guilt is so obvious to all, we can skip the trial, there has to be someone or some body in charge of deciding which cases are in that class. Perhaps it should be more than one person, to limit the influence of bias and to make sure the decisions aren't arbitrary. And probably we should make all of the people involved in the decision agree on the decision, so we can be confident it's the right decision. We should probably have that decision-making body be representative of a good cross-section of society. So maybe something like 12 sounds good?

Oh, wait. Sounds an awful lot like a jury! Which is the mechanism we already use for deciding if someone is guilty of murder or molestation. So maybe that's how we should decide which cases are the really clear-cut cases of guilt, too. That's the argument I always make to those people who insist some people are so obviously guilty, we should skip the trial part.

It's the same argument I'm making today to people who insist Tsarnaev is a terrorist and should be labeled an enemy combatant, shouldn't get a trial.

All the same arguments are being made by the hang-'em-high crowd and the rule-of-law crowd in this case as get made in every discussion of every other criminal case out there. Further proving this case, this crime, these accusations, should be handled in the exact same way. In a criminal trial in civilian court, open to the public and the press, with a jury of 12, and wherein the government must prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.


BellsforStacy said...

He needs a trial precisely because he is so guilty, so that in our rush for justice we don't trample his rights as a human being.

That being said ... I agree with most of what the masses say. He is a waste of oxygen. He is on camera setting a pipe bomb filled with nails behind an 8 year old boy not to mention the dozens of other people.

But because I am so passionate against him I know he needs someone to say hold on guys ... lets follow the rule of law. My heart breaks for those that love him. But he's made his bed. He'll spend the rest of his life in jail just for throwing bombs and shooting at police. His life is effectively over.

Tony said...

This is cool!

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