Recently in Notorious Cases Category

Did Dzhokhar Tsarnaev know what he was doing, and intend to do it, when he planted the bomb that killed three people and grievously injured dozens more?

Well, read his own words

When asked to comment, one of his numerous defense lawyers refused, but was willing to say, "If the government's indictment is true, this [case] is about a family...a story of this family and the relationships between the people in [it]."

Well, not really.  It's a story about a Jihadist whose response to the generous welcome this country gave him was to hate it and kill its people with a home made, shrapnel-packed bomb.

Justice Not Mush

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Much of what we hear about the Boston Marathon murders is  --  excuse me  -- unadulterated mush.  Have we had enough yet of teddy bears, plastic flowers and yellow ribbons? Have we had enough of the vapid talk that seems inevitably to follow them?  Take this, for example, from yesterday's Washington Post article commemorating the bombing:

Boston and its surroundings braced for an emotional week that begins Tuesday...It will be a chance to mourn the dead and remember the bloodshed, but also...to marvel at the way events have brought this community together.

"We're going to turn it into a moment of unity and perseverance and [strength] as a city," said Alison Beliveau, 25, of South Boston, who finished a run Monday morning outside Marathon Sports, where the first bomb went off one year ago. "We made it through. We're going to make it."


Did anyone ever doubt that they were "going to make it?"  I know this will be attacked as unfeeling, but it's time to say it out loud:  Is there anything here but trendy, empty sentiment? All these commemorative talks, especially by politicians, are just so much hot air.  That by itself wouldn't be too awful  --  hot air is what politicians do  --  but I think there's something more subversive going on:  It distracts us from the central reality, and from what we need to do.

Why We Have the Death Penalty

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Today is the one year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing.  Dozens of people received life-long, disfiguring injuries.  Three died: Krystle Campbell, 29; Chinese national Lu Lingzi, 23; and  Martin Richard, 8.  The latter was  to have started his first season in Little League in a few weeks.

The bombing was undertaken by two Jihadist brothers.  The older one was  killed after a shootout with police four days later.  The younger, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was captured and is awaiting trial in November.

No serious person is claiming there is doubt of his guilt, or that he's mentally or emotionally disabled, or that he acted other than intentionally, knowing full well what he was doing.  The defense, if you want to call it that, is that he was following his brother.

The New York Daily News has this retrospective.  The pictures are graphic, as they should be. The picture of Dzhokhar's sworn enemy, the scourge of the earth, the Great Satan, follows the break.

Some Crime Victims Count...

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...and some don't.

President Obama met at the White House with the families of the victims of the Newtown, Conn. school massacre.  Nothing wrong with that; it was a shocking national tragedy.  I have some misgivings that the meeting was enlisted in a political cause, but that's how it goes with this Administration.

The President has refused to meet, however, with the families of the victims of  another mass shooting, even though (unlike the case with Newtown), he was  the Commander-in-Chief of the people ambushed, and even though they were killed, not by a lunatic, but by a "soldier" of the same Jihad that has attacked America before.

What difference does it make, really, whether the federal government has some paltry financial interest in pretending, absurdly, that the Ft. Hood massacre five years ago was just "workplace violence" instead of a terrorist attack?  For my money, what compels the President to meet with Major Hasan's victims does not depend on how they are categorized.  What compels it is basic decency. 

Manning's Sentence Upheld

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AP reports that the 35-year court-martial sentence of mass leaker Pvt. Bradley Manning, who now calls himself Chelsea, has been confirmed by the commanding officer, Maj. Gen. Jeffery S. Buchanan.  The sentence can be further appealed to the Army Court of Criminal Appeal.

Manning's appellate lawyers, Nancy Hollander and Vincent Ward, told supporters Sunday in Washington that they expect to argue that the sentence unreasonable. It is the longest prison term ever given by a U.S. court for leaking government secrets to the media. They said they also expect to argue that Manning's speedy trial rights were violated, that the Espionage Act was misused and that high-ranking commanders improperly influenced [the] case.

But Never Mention Conscience

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When Adam Lanza murdered twenty children and six adults in the Newtown school shooting in December 2012, the President wasted no time politicizing the gruesome tragedy as another episode of  "gun violence" for which more federal gun control legislation is needed. The White House statement is here.

One wonders what its statement will be today.

There are of course times when episodes like this are linked to mental illness  --  although the art of faking mental illness has been well refined in criminal defense.  And the deadliness of the weapon used can hardly be overlooked, either.

But something always seems to be missing from the press coverage of these episodes.  We hear a lot about schizophrenia.  We hear a lot about guns, particularly from those eager to disarm perfectly law-abiding people.  What we never hear about is the one thing whose degradation matters most  --  conscience.

As an example of how the country's reaction to murder descends further into cultural mush, one could hardly do better than this zinger from CBS News in Boston:

For the first time ever, this year psychologists will be stationed along the Boston Marathon route to talk with people who may feel emotionally overwhelmed.

That's it, people! Instead of expeditiously trying the bomber and giving him the execution he deserves, the thing to do is line the parade route with shrinks because, ya  know, people might be anxious:

Between now and race day, Dr. Chris Carter of Spaulding Rehab Hospital says it's likely we'll feel a range of emotions.

Carter believes people may be more reactive.

"They may be feeling a little more on edge. A little more tearful perhaps or a little more irritable and less patient," he said.

When justice is replaced by psychobabble, this is what you  get.

Jacques Billeaud reports for AP:

A man convicted of killing nine people, including six monks, during a robbery at a Buddhist temple in metro Phoenix was sentenced Friday to 249 years in prison, marking the end of one of the most notorious criminal cases in Arizona over the past 25 years.
The crime was committed in 1991.  The original conviction and effective-life sentence were upheld by the Arizona courts but overturned by the Ninth Circuit on a Miranda claim in 2011.  Judge Tallman noted in dissent:

The Arizona courts did everything we can demand of state courts. The trial court held a ten-day evidentiary hearing before concluding the Miranda warnings were adequate and the confession was voluntary. More importantly, the jury independently and necessarily concluded the confession was voluntary and reliable in convicting Doody for his role in the murders. The Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed this determination in a comprehensive, reasoned opinion. Its holding on the facts presented fell squarely within the bounds of Supreme Court precedent on voluntariness.
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In violation of AEDPA, the majority adjusts the scales and weighs the facts anew. This sort of appellate factfinding on habeas review is contrary to the congressionally mandated standard of review.
Notwithstanding the AP report, it's not the end.  There will be another appeal, another habeas petition.

Fatal Vision

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Gene Weingarten has this story in the WaPo on Joe McGinniss, who died Monday.

McGinniss was invited by Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald and his legal team as MacDonald was on trial for the murder of his wife and two daughters.  He was "to be a fly on the wall" and tell the story of the team's fight to free the innocent man wrongly accused.  A funny thing happened on the way to the verdict.  McGinniss came to realize that MacDonald was guilty.

Weingarten writes:

But I am writing this because of "Fatal Vision," which was as good and as rigorous a work of nonfiction as there is. It belongs right here, in the same sentence as Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood," which may be the greatest true-crime book ever written.

What was McGinniss supposed to have done when he realized, midway through the reporting, that the man he was writing about had lied to everyone? That he had killed his wife and older daughter in a rage -- and then calmly, methodically hacked to death his sleeping two-year old, stabbing her 33 times with a knife and ice pick, just to strengthen his alibi? Was McGinniss required to dutifully inform the murderer that he now believed him guilty, and invite him to withdraw his cooperation if he wished, possibly killing the book outright, but certainly killing it as a meaningful, enlightening, powerful examination of the mind of a monster?

Adegbile Nomination Defeated

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Susan Davis reports for USA Today:

The U.S. Senate narrowly defeated President Obama's nominee to oversee the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division due to Republican and law enforcement objections to the role he played in the defense of convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Only 47 senators, all Democrats, voted to advance Debo Adegbile's nomination while 52 senators voted to block him, including 7 Democrats. Vice President Biden presided over the vote in the event he could break a tie, which was unnecessary after Democrats failed to muster enough support.

Of course, supporters say the predictable things:

Democrats, lawyers groups and civil rights activists hailed Adegbile as one of the nation's leading civil rights attorneys with impeccable credentials honed over two decades in the profession. He has worked as an aide in the U.S. Senate as well as the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and has argued two civil rights cases on voting rights before the Supreme Court.

"There is no question about his competence," said Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin, D-Ill., prior to the vote.

Senator Durbin is actually the Majority Whip, but that's a nice thought.  Maybe next year.  [Update: The article has been corrected.]  Did Senator Durbin say that competence is all that matters when Justice Alito was nominated?  I don't think so.  As always in Washington, "where you stand depends on where you sit."

See also yesterday's post, containing links to numerous earlier posts on this matter.

Boldly Tiptoeing on the Marathon Bomber

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Hillary Chabot has this column in the Boston Herald:

More pols are coming out in favor of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to seek the death penalty against accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev -- breaking with many of the Bay State's hand-wringing Democrats as Congress prepares to release an exhaustive report on the Boston Marathon bombings.

"He should get the death penalty if found guilty," former U.S. Sen. Scott Brown told the Herald yesterday. Brown joins Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch and most of the voters in calling for Tsarnaev's life if he is convicted in the dual bloody bombings that killed three and injured hundreds, as well as the killing of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer.

More on the Marathon Bomber

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Catherine Shoichet has this story for CNN on the decision to seek the death penalty for the Marathon Bomber.  Most interesting to me are the quotes from victims and their families:

For Liz Norden, it's one small step forward.

Her sons, JP and Paul, each lost a leg in the bombings, which killed three people and injured more than 250 at the April 15 race.

"I just am relieved that it's going forward in the right direction, one step forward in the recovery process, just that the option is out there on the table for the jurors, if that's the way it goes," she told CNN's The Situation Room.

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OK, But What Took You So Long?

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The US Department of Justice has this press release (emphasis added):

Attorney General Eric Holder today released the following statement regarding the case of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev:

"After consideration of the relevant facts, the applicable regulations and the submissions made by the defendant's counsel, I have determined that the United States will seek the death penalty in this matter. The nature of the conduct at issue and the resultant harm compel this decision."

Of course they do, as obviously as the sun rose in the east this morning.

Update:  Jon Kamp and Devlin Barrett have this article in the WSJ on the decision.

USDoJ Civil Rights Nominee

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Mary Kissel has this "Political Diary" article in the WSJ (subscription):

It's hard to find a lawyer who could do more damage to the Justice Department's civil-rights division than former chief Tom Perez--who wielded race as a political weapon, interfered with the Supreme Court's docket to protect his discrimination agenda from legal review, and snubbed a House subpoena before taking the job as Labor Secretary--until you consider the record of the man the president nominated to replace him, Debo Adegbile.
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In a letter sent to President Obama Monday, the National Fraternal Order of Police recounted how Mr. Adegbile volunteered to get cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal off death row with "unfounded and unproven allegations of racism." The group's more than 330,000 members expressed "extreme disappointment, displeasure and vehement opposition" to his nomination, calling it "a thumb in the eye of our nation's law enforcement officers"--unusually strong language from the Order.
It is one thing to represent a murderer.  That function needs to be done, and people who do it ethically ought not be disqualified from appointments.  It is quite another to run around making "unfounded and unproven allegations of racism."  For prosecutors, it is universally considered unethical to accuse a person without probable cause.  That restriction ought to apply to all lawyers.  No one should accuse anyone of a crime, a tort, or a breach of ethical duty without probable cause to believe the allegation is true.  Those who do should certainly not be considered for high office.

Blago's Appeal

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Kim Janssen and Natasha Korecki report for the Chicago Sun-Times:

It's a long time since Rod Blagojevich had anything to celebrate in federal court.

And he probably shouldn't get too excited just yet.

But a ray of hope beamed into the disgraced former governor's prison cell Friday when appellate court judges zinged prosecutors with pointed questions about his corruption convictions.

Chief among the questions the justices wanted answered: just what separates Blagojevich's actions from the "legal horse trading" politicians typically rely upon to advance their careers?

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