The trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been underway at the federal courthouse in Boston for about a week now, and my sense is that it’s mostly serving as one giant catharsis for the greater Boston area.
I mean, it’s not about whether he’s guilty or innocent. The defense already admitted that he’s guilty on the very first day of the trial.
It will be about whether he gets the death penalty or not, but the entire trial could have been averted if the prosecution had just stipulated to life without parole.
For the record, life without parole would be a much better solution, and not just because the death penalty is uncivilized and should have been abandoned long ago. No, it’s because after a life-time of imprisonment, people often come to some kind of epiphany, where they finally understand how deranged and senseless their crime really was.
The women who participated in the Manson murders are one of the best examples of that. Because California had abandoned the death penalty shortly before their conviction, none of them were executed. And none have been released. A few of them died in prison and a few are still there, but all of them ended up being the cautionary poster-women for how easily one can be led astray under the right circumstances. They became living examples for how powerful even a micro-cult like the Manson “family” can really be. And most of them became very articulate on this subject, and maybe influenced a few people not to follow down their path. There were some interesting interviews with the Manson women in their later years.
I want Dzhokhar to sit in prison for a lifetime and to have to contemplate for years and years whether this method of “expressing” himself was really the best way to go about voicing his opinions. It’s not even that there isn’t some legitimacy to his complaint that the United States government shouldn’t be in the business of killing “innocent” (and in some cases not-so-innocent) Muslims. One can certainly make the argument — and I have — that we shouldn’t be involved in ANY military operations over in the Middle East.
But eight your old Martin Richard has no responsibility for the conduct of the United States government. Or Chinese grad student Lingzi Lu. Or practically anyone who as at the Marathon. Including me. As Dzhokhar will eventually discover, doing the kind of thing he and his brother did just serves to galvanize the rest of the community in opposition. It made it LESS likely that the United States would leave the Middle East, and MORE likely that we would continue in our quixotic pursuit of “terrorists” in a part of the world where we don’t speak the language or understand the culture. (Anyone remember Viet Nam and how that worked out?)
So the legal issues have essentially been resolved. This long and windy trial, being covered breathlessly by the Boston media, is really just a giant catharsis for us all.