War of the Words

It makes sense to me: If, as an attorney, your client pleads “not guilty,” you then do not begin your opening statement, in defense of that client, with the words “It was him” for common sense tells you doing so will likely guarantee an unfavorable outcome for your client no matter what evidence is subsequently presented during the course of the trial. Yet this is precisely what happened.

It makes sense to me: If that is the best you can do for a prospective client who proclaims his innocence, you do not take the case. In good faith, you tell them you cannot defend someone you believe to be guilty. You have principles, you say.

As we all know, that conversation did not happen. In fact, Tsarnaev family members have stated, and at least one did so under oath in a sworn affidavit that is now part of the court record, that Judy Clarke openly expressed to the family her certainty of the fact of Dzhokhar’s innocence… until she stood in front of the jury and spoke for the first time.

The fact that Judy Clarke is still involved in Dzhokhar’s case is deeply disturbing to me. “Managing the transition” is what they call her current role.  My concern is that in the minds of certain individuals, “managing the transition” equates with “shaping the strategy.” May it never be! In my not so humble opinion, I believe it is high time for Ms. Clarke to be long gone from this case.

The collective will to accept the narrative that names Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as the party who is guilty of bombing the Boston Marathon and murdering Sean Collier must be a force to be reckoned with for anyone living in or around the Boston area. I can think of no other reason for Becki Norris, Dzhokhar’s former teacher, who testified to his good character at trial, to tweet “Easy to call murderers like #Tsarnaev monsters, pure evil. Harder but more honest to ask, “How did they get here?”

I say it is more honest still to ask what makes people like her so sure he actually IS a murderer who “got there?”

Becki goes on to say in another tweet “Will likely always wonder how the kid I knew ended up on this path. Only confident he wasn’t always ‘that way.’ ”

Between the lines of those tweets, Becki Norris proclaims her belief in his guilt. I would love to have a conversation with her, to ask exactly what “evidence” she bases that certainty of guilt on. However, having read her complaint about us Jahar supporters who followed her on Twitter for awhile after the trial, I believe such a conversation would not ultimately be profitable.

I have the same what’s-the-use feeling when I occasionally pop over to a blog dedicated to praying for Dzhokhar. The praying I support; the thinly veiled judgmental comments – not so much. You can’t miss this disclaimer on their homepage:  IMPORTANT NOTE: We strongly condemn and are disgusted by Jahar’s actions, and we pray for his victims regularly. Nonetheless, as Christians, we believe that Jesus calls us to love our enemies and pray for them and that despite Jahar’s heinous crimes, the blood of Jesus is more than sufficient to wash him white as snow. Also, this is not a blog either for or against the death penalty for Jahar, as whether he lives or dies, his eternity is what matters most.

Isn’t that special? I shake my head every time I see it. And unlike Clarke and company who, for the most part, seemed to sit on their hands at the trial, I find I can not let certain remarks go unchallenged forever.

I am deeply grateful for people like Heather Frizzell, whose location, by the way says Boston, Massachusetts. Heather is the author of us-v-tsarnaev.org. On her blog, under the “About” tab, it says this: This research project seeks to document the facts about the Boston Marathon bombing and its subsequent court case, the United States v. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Since it began, the case has been marred by negative media coverage, factual inaccuracies, confirmation bias, and highly charged national politics, all of which have prevented a fair and impartial picture from being drawn of the events in question and the person who stood trial for committing them.

The purpose of this site is twofold: one, to combat years of bad press by presenting an unbiased, academic analysis of all aspects of the case for scholars, researchers, activists and people of conscience, and two, to advocate justice for a young man who was denied the due process he was guaranteed as an American. Our position is that no matter how reprehensible the crime, nor how controversial the client, the law applies equally to all citizens. The Constitution of the United States considers our law to be a protection. Therefore, when it is not applied equally, when those in positions of power are allowed to pick and choose who is protected and who isn’t, then we must forfeit the illusion that we are living in a free society.

This site strives to restore those Constitutional rights that were stripped from Dzhokhar Tsarnaev – perhaps most importantly, a presumption of innocence until proven guilty – by approaching the facts in an unbiased manner. Here we present an alternate theory of the case based on the evidence, unspoken by the prosecution and, to some degree, even the defense. It is our hope that the research presented here may one day help the defense in the event of a retrial, as well as academics, attorneys and citizens who are interested in the issues present in the American justice system, particularly when it comes to terrorism law.

The spirit and tone present in her words are quite different than the mixed message being expressed on Christians4jahar.wordpress.com. I was happy to see someone left them a link to Heather’s website along with a comment asking if they had ever read it.  One can always hope. Still, the saying “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink” comes to mind. Maybe, with a little help, they might become thirsty one day.

Heather’s father is an attorney and she spends endless hours discussing the case with him. I was struck by a recent response from Heather to a reader of her blog:

To answer your question, yes, my own perspective of the case has shifted since I first began writing about it. This is because due to my research, I’ve had to reevaluate what I now know and what I thought I knew in the light of new evidence. In the current phase in my research, it is my opinion that this is indeed a wrongful conviction case. However, it’s more complicated than what the average person may think of when they hear the term “wrongful conviction.” I have learned that there is a difference between legally not guilty and what those in the wrongful conviction field call “actually innocent.” One can be legally not guilty but still have done a criminal action, but provisions in the law allow for it if special circumstances can be shown. Actually innocent means the person had nothing to do with the crime in the first place.

My current opinion is that Dzhokhar is both legally not guilty and actually innocent, depending on the charge. Since I have been unable to find any real evidence of his radicalization or his involvement in the conspiracy to commit the bombing with Tamerlan, I am working with the theory that he both knew nothing about the crime beforehand and was compelled to help Tamerlan carry it out via duress. My father has explained it this way: if a person is forced to commit a crime against his will, he is no longer a perpetrator of violence, but an instrument of violence through someone else – he only used Dzhokhar as an instrument through fear. This is a valid though admittedly challenging defense in American law, but at the moment it’s the only one that makes sense to me.

Once we move away from the bombing to the other charges related to Sean Collier’s murder and the events leading up to the Watertown shootout, the evidence gets even thinner. I believe Dzhokhar to be actually innocent of many of these charges, including the murder of Sean Collier (or, rather, the “causing of his death,” as the federal charges are worded.)

I too used to believe Dzhokhar acted out of fear and threats from his older brother. Now, however, given the issue with the backpack he carried not matching in color and appearance to the one the prosecution said contained the second bomb, I am now firmly convinced Dzhokhar is innocent, having actually done nothing at all.

I don’t have a problem with attorneys who recognize they have been handed a case that is un-winnable no matter how you slice it due to a mountain of incriminating evidence and who may resort to unconventional wisdom to try to save the life of their client by securing a life sentence. This however, was not that case.

I don’t have a problem with praying for Dzhokhar to be transformed by a life-changing encounter with Jesus, Who has provided the only way of salvation. In fact, I pray often for that very thing. Nor do I have a problem with people who do not wish to delve into the details of the case or examine whether justice was done. However, when injustice so glaring, when bias so great abounds, to insist, by implication, on his guilt while saying you care for his soul is simply wrong.

Those who say they believe Dzhokhar is guilty as charged refuse to provide any reason beyond reference to a dubious bedside confession and statements by a defense attorney who was either out of her league, motivated by a hidden agenda or both.

Given the mountain of available evidence now in the public domain, I find this position inexcusable and unsupportable. It speaks to me of pride, jealousy and the existence of secrets that need to be protected at all costs.

Some of the secrets to which I refer are being held by the usual government suspects. Others, I believe, are the property of groups too sacred, in the eyes of some, to name without inviting a new tidal wave of outrage.

Hebrews 4:12-13 says “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”

Moving forward, we would all do well to remember that and conduct ourselves accordingly.

4 thoughts on “War of the Words”

  1. I deeply appreciate the positive and supportive responses. I think of all the posts I have written, the thought of how this one would be received did cause me some anxiety. Some may find this hard to believe, but I actually do not enjoy causing strife and ruffling feathers. However, some things just have to be said and I have been waiting a long time to address some of what I talked about in this post today. With the responses so far, I am glad I took the step to write this post today.

  2. Such a strong and powerful blog… Thank you Lynn for opening the eyes of many who are too blind to see and too deaf to hear of Jahars innocence. I agree also….Clarke must go. She jeopardized Jahars first trial and if there is another with pending appeals…God help Jahar and get rid of her before his other trial starts…if granted. Great writing Lynn as always!

  3. This is well said and extremely important!! I will share it wherever I can. Way to go Lynn, keep it up. A young life is dependent on no one staying quiet.

  4. Well you made me cry. What you say is spot on. Thank you for this wonderful, eye opening post. I am confident that in the near future more and more people will get thirsty.

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