Was it character or strategy that drove Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to plead “not guilty” to all charges in the Boston Marathon bombing? Would a real terrorist have done this? These are important questions. I believe I have answers. Here they are:
Firstly, the truth does not need a strategy. I can’t stress this enough. In fact, this blog post could end with this paragraph and I would have said all I should need to say on this subject. The truth is the truth and Dzhokhar told it the only way he was allowed: by pleading “not guilty” thirty times, when asked, because he knew he was innocent.
A simple, direct character-driven answer each time. Respectful. No grand-standing. No having to be restrained and muzzled because he kept taking the opportunity to spew hatred for America.
But Judy Clarke, now she needed a strategy. The client wasn’t cooperating. Yes, he finally accepted their help. But he refused to plea bargain, despite the statements made by the defense attorneys to the contrary toward the end of the trial. (Yes, his own defense team took more than one opportunity to betray him)! Allowing a jury to hear that a plea deal was rejected tells the jury one thing: my client is guilty. The innocent, accused of heinous crimes as Dzhokhar was, do not plea bargain. Their good name means too much to them. They insist on taking the stand and shouting their truth from the rooftops (if their attorneys will allow them): I am innocent! I did not do this! Podstava!
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev told his mom he would rather die than say he and his brother committed the crimes for which he alone now stood accused following the death of his brother. That is what a plea bargain would have required and he wouldn’t take one. But she, a fervent Muslim, chose to spin her son’s statement and tell the world “Dzhokhar is willing to die for Allah” because in her mind, not his, that is a good and honorable thing.
If Dzhokhar had really wanted to die for Allah, had really been of the ilk that “looks down the barrel of a gun and sees heaven” or whatever verbiage that crazy, fabricated boat-note-he-didn’t-write contained, he would have died on the streets of Watertown.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: terrorists don’t run.
In my last blog post “When You’re Under SAMs, It Is Never More True That Actions Speak Louder Than Words” I wrote about the fact that Dzhokhar’s actions reinforced his “not guilty” plea. I wrote that this was the only way he could speak due to being under SAMs. What I left out of that blog post and am saying now – is why.
Dzhokhar was not about trying to avoid the death penalty. Dzhokhar was willing to die protesting his and his brother’s innocence. I dare say he still is.
While I’m on the subject of character, because I know what some of you are likely thinking, let’s talk about Dzhokhar and marijuana.
People smoke and sell weed, that’s marijuana for those of you who don’t know, for a few very common reasons. They smoke to avoid pain and anxiety – stop foaming at the mouth about the magazine cover long enough to read the “Rolling Stone” article about him and you’ll see the pain/anxiety/smoking weed connection in Dzhokhar’s life clear as day. And people sell weed for one reason: money. It’s profitable. End of story. I’m quite sure Dzhokhar was not selling harmful drugs to little kids or to anyone else for that matter. That would have been an indicator of questionable character.
And for those of you who still react negatively to the word marijuana, I ask you to watch “The Sacred Plant.” (That is, if you can find it. The documentary is greatly suppressed and you must find an invite to view it). When you learn how much pain, cancer and seizures cannabis (the scientific name for marijuana) has cured, yes cured, when you learn that prior to 1937, the medicine chest of every household in America contained multiple medications that contained cannabis, when you learn that our bodies were designed by our Creator to respond with healing when cannabis is part of the protocol, when you learn that in 1937 the U.S. government made cannabis illegal in order to patent it and make money but were unsuccessful because they have never been able to synthetically duplicate what the plant God created contains so the healing effects are not there, when you learn that they simultaneously launched a propaganda campaign to make people afraid of cannabis, deliberately changing the name we would come to know it by to “marijuana,” which is what the Mexican drug cartels called it, in order to create that negative association, when you learn that one of the places marijuana, pardon me, cannabis, has been legal the longest is, wait for it: Washington, D.C., when you learn these things from the respected medical doctors who collaborated to make this documentary and get the truth out there, you may feel differently about Dzhokhar and his decision to sell it and smoke it, whether you consider things like anxiety, PTSD, and depression, which he may well have suffered from, as a legitimate medical need or not.
Maybe one more story from that same documentary will help push you over the line into awareness:
So… a vibrant, retired college professor in her seventies has a brain tumor. Inoperable brain cancer. They want her to go through chemo and radiation. She, in due diligence, researches these strategies, learning the devastating effects chemotherapy and radiation have on the body, the immune system that keeps us alive, how it kills the good cells we need along with the cancerous ones we don’t. She learns about the likelihood she will suffer from chemo brain afterwards, the resulting loss of cognition terrifies her, as it would anyone.
And then she researches holistic, natural cures for cancer and learns about cannabis. What we call medical marijuana. She needs the whole plant but lives in a state where it is still illegal. By the way, before I continue with her story, I must tell you this: you will also learn from the documentary what the three criteria are for a drug to be classified as a Class One Narcotic. You will be shocked and outraged, I hope, when the doctors in the documentary explain how cannabis does not meet any of the three criteria. Cannabis continues to be so classified to give the government more time to create a synthetic that works like the real thing in order to get that holy grail: a patent. But I digress…
So she breaks the law, bravely, secretly going to another state where cannabis is legal. Risking jail in order to save her life. Bringing it back, crossing state lines to make an oily concoction from the whole plant, which she cooks, filling pill capsules with the goo. For six months she follows this protocol. Then her doctor does another scan.
The brain tumor is shrinking…
But not enough, he says. The oncologist is able to sufficiently terrify her into going the chemo route. Her family, who researched natural modalities with her and believes in them as she does, is heartbroken. They can not talk her out of it.
Post chemotherapy, this once vibrant woman who was able to cross state lines alone on public transportation to obtain cannabis, is now wheelchair-bound, chemo brain has left her a shadow of her former self.
She lived another two years. Amazingly, during that time, her family ensured she continued her cannabis regimen unabated.
I hope you are sitting down for the end of this story. Here it is:
When she died, an autopsy was performed. She was cancer-free. Her death certificate lists the cause of death as poisoning due to the chemotherapy drugs. Once again, her family was devastated. I can’t type this without crying…
I came so close to saying yes to chemo. I even had them put the port in my chest during my lumpectomy. My second surgery was to remove the port. It was never used.
I didn’t plan to talk about this today but I’m not sorry I did. Many things are not as they appear or as others would have us think they are: the war on drugs, the race for a cure, the war on terror, the Boston Marathon bombing…
So there you have it. Still think Dzhokhar lacks character? Still think those thirty “not guilty” pleas were just the strategy of a guilty man trying to avoid the death penalty? Then riddle me this: why didn’t he plead for his life before the jury deliberated his sentence?
His was a silence born from character. They’d already found him guilty when he knew he wasn’t. They’d already destroyed his good name. To a person of character, nothing hurts more.
Pleading for his life at that point no longer mattered.