Last week was a strange week for news. We had a number of completely unrelated and completely disparate reports, and yet they were all interesting in their own ways.
1. The Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Verdict.
Tsarnaev was, of course, sentenced to death in a Boston courtroom. The outcome was disappointing, not because Dzhokhar does not deserve the punishment for what he did, but for other reasons. Those reasons include that Massachusetts has long ago rejected the death penalty and rejected it firmly, so that the federal proceedings essentially are an end run around the will of the people of Massachusetts.
Because the jury had to be “death qualified” — that is to say, every member of the jury had to affirm that they were willing to impose the death penalty — it made the jury pool not really representative of the people of Massachusetts. The family of Martin Richard, the eight year old boy that Dzhokhar killed, weighed in several weeks ago with an impassioned plea not to impose the death penalty. It fell on deaf ears. Now we’ll have a long round of appeals, and there appear to be at least three appealable issues:
- the refusal of the judge in Boston to change the venue;
- the failure of the judge to notify the jury that if they could not come to a decision, he would automatically impose life in prison;
- and the non-representative sample of jurors selected because of the “death qualified” requirement.
2. The Deflategate Scandal
This one is more important to the local denizens of New England, or Patriots nation, but also seems to have caught the imagination of the more general sporting public in the United States. Having performed employment-related investigations myself, I can assure everyone that it really is highly unlikely that Tom Brady did not know that the locker room attendants were deflating the footballs.
But you can see what probably happened. Brady had just one the ALF championship game that propelled the Patriots to the Superbowl, and suddenly he was being asked about deflated footballs. He had no time to “prepare” an answer and went automatically where most of us go: to denial. He was then stuck with that position, and it would have been very hard to retreat from it and admit that yeah, he probably did say stuff that would lead the attendants to think that he wanted the footballs deflated.
This is of course the end of the romance between Patriots owner Robert Kraft and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The Patriots feel, not unjustifiably, that they’re being punished much more harshly for the kind of thing that other teams also do, but haven’t been caught at. The NFL is punishing them more for their failure to cooperate than for what they actually did. And because they’re still sore about Spygate. In any case, this should make for some interesting viewing as the legal end of this saga unfolds over the next several months.
3. The Death of B.B.King
There isn’t much to say about this except that Riley B. King, except that was one of the great ones. B.B. was old; he had type II diabetes for many years. In the last decades of his life, he mostly sat on a stool or chair when performing because it was too exhausting to stand up. Born on a cotton plantation in Mississippi, the son of sharecroppers, B.B. lived a good life, and for a blues musician, an exceptionally long life. By all accounts, he was an also an exceptionally nice man. I’m sorry to see him go, but am grateful that we had him for as long as we did. I don’t believe in heaven or the afterlife, but he will remain known for many years through his music, as it should be.