I have just read the article by Mary Maxwell for Gumshoe News “Tsarnaev to Walk – Supreme Court Overturns the McCoy Ruling.” Though I may not understand all the ins and outs of just what will have to transpire in order for this ruling to either grant Dzhokhar a new trial or actually free him, I do know it is good news.
“Held: The Sixth Amendment guarantees a defendant the right to choose the objective of his defense and to insist that his counsel refrain from admitting guilt, even when counsel’s experience-based view is that confessing guilt offers the defendant the best chance to avoid the death penalty. Pp 5-13.”
Toward the end of her article, Mary sounds a note of caution:
“Admittedly, it’s a tad tricky as he (Dzhokhar) has never been heard to say ‘help me get a better lawyer.’ In fact, he has never been heard to say anything. Exactly on a par with Martin Bryant in Australia. Not one word.”
I say the proof he wanted a better (as in different, as in independent) team of lawyers lies here:
1) He refused to accept these government-appointed lawyers until his own mother was coerced into coercing him to accept their representation.
2) He was heard to say not one but two words thirty times: “not guilty,” indicating from the outset that he never agreed to have his lawyer state guilt in opening statements.
3) Per the journalists tweeting from the courtroom during the trial, Dzhokhar left the courtroom angry on the day of Clarke’s opening statement, slapping away a note from Bill Fick as he walked out. Remember when that was tweeted?
A competent, ethical attorney could argue Dzhokhar’s actions spoke louder than the words he was prevented by the SAMs from saying. And that the only words he was allowed to say, “not guilty,” backed up those actions.
That would be enough to convince me.
If I were going to defend Dzhokhar’s right to a new trial based on the McCoy ruling, I would refute any mention of his answer to the judge that he was satisfied with his defense team (remember when O’Toole asked him that at the close of the trial)? I mean, what else was he going to say, cowed, convicted, cornered and broken as he was after all he had endured during the trial…
And as for that awkwardly-worded statement he made after sentencing, if I were Dzhokhar’s attorney, I would demand to see the letter Dzhokhar’s mother wrote urging him to accept those government-appointed lawyers. I’d be looking to see if she urged him to accept these “lovely companions.”
I’m sure the kid doesn’t talk like that. Besides, saying someone is a lovely companion is not saying much when your only other companions are the dust bunnies rolling around in the corners of your cell.
A final thought to consider: one can be a “lovely companion” and a “worthless lawyer” at the same time for they are, after all, two completely different things. Dzhokhar didn’t need lovely companions. He needed lawyers who would defend him. He needed lawyers who could not be bullied or bought. In the end, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had neither lovely companions nor the legal representation his innocence deserved and that’s a wrong that must be righted. Hopefully with the McCoy ruling, we are moving ever closer to that becoming a reality.