The Boston Marathon Bombing Trial: A game of “Scruples”

In 1984 a new card game was introduced called “Scruples.” The game is based on ethical dilemmas such as:

You accidently damage a car in a parking lot. Do you leave a note with your name and phone number?”

I played it once over dinner and drinks with a co-worker. What a game like Scruples can reveal about another person is disturbing…

Due to the cultural aspect of the moral dilemma questions, “Scruples” was updated every five years. The last edition is the Milennium version.

I think that’s part of the problem with our world today. What’s immoral or unethical in 1984 should still be immoral or unethical today. But if there must be newer versions, I propose adding these questions to the game:

“You are a juror in a death penalty case. The defense attorney says her client is guilty in opening statements but no evidence is presented during the trial to support this claim. Do you convict the defendant and sentence him to death anyway?”

And this question:

You are the defense attorney in a federal death penalty case. You know your client is innocent.  You know opposing counsel has no evidence against your client yet you are under intense pressure from powerful government forces to ensure a guilty verdict. Do you fight for your client anyway?”

And this:

You are the judge in a federal death penalty case. You have already formed an opinion of guilt based on non-stop media reports and private conversations with government officials. When you are assigned this case, do you admit to personal bias and recuse yourself?”

The judge, defense attorneys and jurors had to face these exact ethical dilemmas. Sadly, we know how they chose to respond.

I believe Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will be granted a new trial. But when this happens, will history repeat itself?

Will his attorneys behave as unethically as the first defense team did? Will they do such a poor job that they all but ensure a guilty verdict? For instance, will they simply continue to ignore the obvious problem with the color of the backpacks?

And what of the next group of jurors? Will they, like the first twelve, sit through a trial where no evidence is presented to support conviction and choose to convict Dzhokhar anyway?

Will the judge again demonstrate extreme bias with unfair and prejudicial rulings in favor of the prosecution? Will we see the same displays of judicial overreach?

The packaging for the “Scruples” card game says this:



I’m still asking that question.

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