Wednesday, March 18, 2015
The city itself, of course, has endured the most snow since record keeping began, which was trial enough. But concurrently, two criminal trials have been runner-ups for local news attention. Both are ritual enactments of substantial civic significance, although otherwise in no way similar.
Dzokhar Tsarnaev's lawyers have already declared that he is one of the two perpetrators of the marathon bombing, along with his brother, although he has not as far as we know confessed himself to law enforcement. That's pretty much of no consequence because his guilt is beyond question. Yet we are having a full trial to prove guilt, complete with witnesses' unbearable, inexpressible pain and the most horrific of images. The reason for this technically is that a plea of guilty cannot be accepted in a capital trial. But the prosecutors could get to a guilty verdict with much less theater of cruelty. The real reason is that they want to kill the defendant and they believe that putting the jury through this ordeal will help them achieve that.
Those witnesses who have said anything in public away from the witness stand appreciated the opportunity to confront the defendant and tell their stories, although most have not spoken out of court. So prosecutors can use that as justification. But Tsarnaev's lawyers have indicated that they will accept life without possibility of parole, which is the only other possibility given a guilty verdict, and the Department of Justice will not agree.
Why is it so important to snuff out Dzokhar Tsarnaev? Will it fix anything?
Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, in contrast, is charged with a tawdry murder over what appears to be a trivial slight of some kind, although the motive is so far not publicly known or even suggested. His lawyers are trying to get an acquittal or a lesser charge, but presumption of innocence granted, so far the matter does not look good for him. He has also been charged with another pointless murder of two strangers, is subject to a civil suit for a non-fatal shooting, and it's been pretty well demonstrated that he never left behind the small-time hoodlum culture of Bristol, Connecticut from which he emerged in spite of his fame, glory, and millions of dollars.
This trial, while it's obviously about guilt and innocence from the point of view of the defendant, is about our culture of athlete worship from the standpoint of the rest of us. If the prosecutors are painting a true picture, this guy is a sadistic psychopath whose natural athletic endowment let him get away with a total lack of self-discipline or serious effort and whose only purpose in life is immediate gratification. But 10 year old boys were wearing his name on their backs.