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The Stacked Deck and the Death Penalty

Is it now officially OK to stack the legal deck against an American citizen who has been accused of terrorism? Noble words about the fairness of the American justice system are being trumped by the dictates of Homeland Security. How sad that our fears should override our sense of justice.

Let us count the ways in which the deck has been stacked against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

1. This article describes the chilling effect of the Special Administrative Measures law, which keeps defense attorneys from discussing the case with the media, allows the FBI to spy on defendant-attorney communications, and in general, skews the odds against a defendant, “keeping terrorism suspects guilty until proven otherwise.”

2. The Tsarnaev case has been rushed to trial with indecent haste, being tried in far less time than the majority of other capital cases in this country. Judge O’Toole has refused the defense the time they need to do it right.

3. With the help of the MSM, the prosecution has mounted an extensive campaign to sway potential jurors. There has been a deluge of leaked “evidence,” rumors, spurious photos, docudramas and tearful TV performances by FBI agents. “The evidence against him is overwhelming” is repeated over and over like a mantra – almost like an advertising jingle.

4. Jurors will be drawn from a traumatized city which is eager for a conviction. Certainly, Bostonians are entitled to a resolution which will help them to heal. But how does one balance this need against the defendant’s right to a fair trial?

Surely if the evidence against DT is really so “overwhelming,” a D.C. jury would also convict. As Karin Friedemann has commented, if the Forum video is as damning as it is claimed to be, “a competent prosecution could present the case in one day, and let the traumatized families go home.” So what’s the prosecution’s problem with moving the case to D.C.? A change of venue would at least have made U.S. vs Tsarnaev look less like a blatant fix … which is exactly what it looks like now.

Deal, or not. Being neither a lawyer nor a psychic, I am not in a position to speculate on what deals have been discussed. However, if the defense does want to go for a guilty plea, I do not believe that necessarily proves their client’s guilt. It may be only be an indicator of how very thoroughly the deck has been stacked.

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