Our opinion: Right way to seek justice

Tuesday April 23, 2013

Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was charged with grievous crimes on Monday, assuring that he will face justice while also guaranteeing him the day in court that he is due no matter how horrific the carnage he and his now-deceased brother are thought to have caused on Patriots Day. That guarantee is one of America’s strengths, and it is not something that should be cast aside in the heat of the moment.

Republican Senators Lindsey Graham (South Carolina), John McCain (Arizona), Kelly Ayotte (New Hampshire) and Peter King (New York) demanded over the weekend that Mr. Tsarnaev be considered an enemy combatant and held by the military, which would deprive him of his legal rights, including access to a lawyer. None of these four have the slightest idea of the motivations of the 19-year-old Mr. Tsarnaev, who because of throat wounds suffered during the course of his capture last Friday in Watertown may not be talking soon, if ever.

They are also ignoring the fact Mr. Tsarnaev is a naturalized citizen, and cannot be tried under a system reserved for foreign nationals suspected of terrorism. Republicans on their soapbox about the supposed illegality of thoroughly constitutional gun control legislation are quick to ignore such niceties in returning to the soapbox to urge unconstitutional treatment of a U.S. citizen. Happily, the Obama administration ignored this bluster in bringing charges under federal statutes.

If the GOP senators would like to see Mr. Tsarnaev convicted for terrorist crimes they should support his being tried in federal courts, where 88 percent of terrorists charged with crimes since September 11, 2001, have been convicted. Military tribunals have succeeded in only a handful of cases, in large part because of legitimate concerns about how testimony was forced from those charged. America’s tried and true federal court system is far preferable to waterboarding.

It is not a crime to be either Chechen or Muslim, and if the Tsarnaev brothers were indeed jihadists that will emerge through the court system. Now, it is only speculation and talk show noise. The Republicans’ anger over the four deaths in Boston is shared by all, but it is unfortunate that it was not extended to the 26 equally horrific and needless deaths in Newtown.


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