The combination of circumstances and events surrounding the Boston Marathon Bombings and the case of USA v. Tsarnaev are unique . . . or are they?

The death penalty will be sought but may be difficult to impose.  The DOJ plans to seek the death penalty if Dzhokhar is found guilty at trial.  This decision was expected and is favored by many law enforcement officials, such as former FBI Special Agent Rick DesLauriers, former Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis, current Boston Police Commissioner Bill Evans, MIT Chief of Police John DiFava and Attorney General Eric Holder, who personally opposes the death penalty but chose to seek execution for inherently political reasons.   Of course most of these officials favor execution due to their intimate connection to the bombings.  However, as we know, the death penalty is not favored by all and may be difficult to impose if the trial stays in Massachusetts, as finding death penalty qualified jurors may be next to impossible.  Remember that BG poll from September 2013 that found a majority of Bostonians favored life without parole for Dzhokhar?  Of course additional polls have been done, as we have seen from Dzhokhar’s defense team and their recent request for change of venue.

High Profile Status and Media Attention.  High profile status is simply someone or something that is well known by most and that garners a lot of attention.  There certainly have been many high profile cases in the past, so this status is not really unique.  But why is Dzhokhar and everything related to his case so high profile?  One reason is that he is considered a terrorist by many.  Since 9/11, anything remotely considered terrorism is taken very seriously and rightly so.

Another reason for the notoriety is because it was at the Boston Marathon, the oldest continuously running marathon in North America.  And it was on Patriot’s Day.  Bombing the Boston Marathon was just un-American.  I think many Americans, especially Bostonians, were terribly offended by the timing of the bombings to an American institution allegedly by a foreign born pair of brothers.  (The point I am trying to make in this paragraph is no way meant to lessen the importance of the tragic loss of life and numerous injuries.)

When it comes to media attention, I certainly must mention the August, 2013, issue of Rolling Stone magazine and the Massachusetts State Police Sgt. Sean Murphy’s subsequent “leak” of the Tsarnaev capture photos.  Wasn’t that an interesting set of events?

There are certainly several reasons for the infamy of this case, but my chosen theory is because they want it kept in the headlines.  They being the prosecution, law enforcement agencies and especially the Wicked Witch of the East, Ms Ortiz.  This constant, in-your-face media attention can influence the public (potential jurors) as well as witnesses, officials and, yes, even the judge.  There have been “leaks,” tv shows, and hundreds of news reports designed to saturate the public to an extent where there’s no such thing as an impartial jury.  (Thanks jane24 for your link in the last thread)

Unprecedented, complex and unusual.  ABC News says the Watertown shootout sparked an unprecedented manhunt for Dzhokhar. reported the capture of Dzhokhar ended an unprecedented daylong seige.  According to the Washington Post the investigation and apprehension of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev involved an unprecedented effort to lockdown Boston.  Frank Cilluffo, director of the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University and apparent lockdown expert (according to NPR) said, in terms of both scale and scope, the shelter-in-place that was enforced was extraordinary, perhaps even unprecedented, but so too were the circumstances.  Circumstances?  The circumstances of the search for one young man who was allegedly armed and carrying explosives was supposedly the reason to lock down in Boston, Watertown and surrounding areas.   The irony is that it wasn’t until the lockdown was lifted that a Watertown resident found Dzhokhar hiding in a boat in his backyard (NPR).  And finally, just last week the Herald described the defense’s poll of potential jurors as an unprecedented legal tactic.

The media sure does like that word unprecedented.  But why are so many events surrounding the bombings unprecedented?  Why is it, with each passing month, we hear of new and seemingly unprecedented events related to the bombings?  Sensationalism.  Influence.  Conviction by media.

The reasons for the complexity of this case are too numerous to list.  We have been over and over them, and I am certain there are more issues to come.  But here are just few to ponder:

  • A “terrorist” attack within the United States.
  • The bombings occurred at a major event being broadcast live.
  • Prosecutors say the Tsarnaev brothers planted a pair of homemade pressure-cooker bombs at the marathon’s crowded finish line.
  • A major metropolitan area was placed under lockdown.
  • A key witness (Todashev) was “accidentally” killed after he supposedly implicates one of the suspects in another case.
  • Four additional individuals (so far) indicted for tampering with or destroying evidence, etc.
  • Deportations, changing stories, and much more . . .

Any one of these circumstances may not be so unique, but combining them certainly makes this case complex.  The defense and prosecution teams both have their work cut out for them.