Boston Bomber, ‘Collateral Damage’ and Clarke’s Strategy

When I first heard of the Boston bombing and that 3 people have died, I was not shocked. Not because I was not a sensitive human being but because my sensitivity in terms of being shocked by bomb blasts had by then been greatly numbed by the thirty year Sri Lankan war during which the brutal Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (more commonly known as LTTE) killed civilians in tens and hundreds. However, when I recover my wits, I always get traumatized by the level of brutality that a human being is capable of showing against another. In this case, it was the same. Little did I know back then that I would be living in Boston when the trial of Tsarnaev was ongoing in the United States District Court of Massachusetts. This post is not meant to be a tribute to those who lost their lives or suffered injuries. Nothing can be a tribute to such a horror. The extent of brutality of bombs should shame humanity as a whole. There are no words to make up for the losses that people have suffered. That is all I could say except for watching in awe those who, like Jeff Bauman and Kaitlyn Cates, stand up stronger than before.

If this post is not a tribute to those who lost their lives or who are rising up stronger than before, then what is it about? This is about collateral damage. The con220px-BostonSuspect2cept which has been stretched too far by all warring states. This is about techniques employed by Attorneys – at – Law whose previous successes at various courts feed into their non-inflatable egos. In layman’s terms collateral damage refers to ‘deaths, injuries, and damage to the property of people who are not in the military that happens as a result of the fighting in a war’ (Merriam Webster Dictionary).  But for Tsarnaev, the deaths of the three individuals were collateral injuries. For what? For the killings of Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan. (An analysis of the legality of the attacks in Iraq and AfghaAP Inistan are saved for a future post). The distorted notion of collateral damage is something that one hears on day – to – day conversations perhaps due to the unfamiliarity of what actually constitutes of collateral damage. Anything that directly targets and attacks civilians is not collateral damage. It never was. It never will be. A reference to the Additional Protocol I (AP I) to the Geneva Conventions of 1977 seems to be relevant in this regard. According to Article 57 AP I (The AP I is applicable to international armed conflicts.) even in an international armed conflict, precautionary measures have to be adopted in order to achieve the relevant military objective. The deliberate attack on civilians for any purpose (including the purpose of demoralizing the enemy forces, or to teach a government a lesson) is against accepted rules and principles of International Humanitarian Law. However, it is alleged that Tsarnaev had written a note stating that the deaths that occurred at the Marathon Bomb amount to ‘collateral damage.’ Well, they do not. While nobody would accept this lame attempt at justifying the horrible act, what some  – the kind which prefer to appear intellectual by clinging to claims of justice – would say is that it is acceptable as a legal defense or worse yet a reasonable act of retaliation for the deaths of the Muslims in other regions.

While one should not be quick to judge or jump into conclusions about someone’s guilt, it is necessary to understand that there is a limit to which legal defenses can be stretched to save a defendant. While lawyer Judy Clarke should be praised for her talent in law and her ability of obtaining life sentences for those who she defends, her strategy in the current case is questionable. The three notable convicts she defended – Jared Lee Loughner, Susan Smith and Ted Kaczynski (who is more commonly known as Unambomber) pleaded guilty and were sentenced to life imprisonment. However, in the present case, Tsarnaev has not pleaded guilty although he has not expressly refused responsibility for the charges against him as well. While Clarke attempted to raise the insanity defense in the trial against Ted Kaczynski who was at a previous stage subject to some psychological experiments which are claimed to have unsettled his mentality, she was unsuccessful in doing so as Kaczynski refused to accept the defense and instead pleaded guilty. In the case at hand, Clarke was reported as having told the court that Tsarnaev is responsible for the acts and also that those acts were the results of being misguided. This new strategy may play an important role in how the Jury perceives the suspect. Earlier today Katherine Q. Seelye explained in New York Times, the impact that such an approach can have on the members of the Jury.

What is interesting in the way that Clarke has characterized the alleged suspect is that he seems innocent not because he is not responsible for the acts but because his Judy Clarkeresponsibility cannot be considered to be purely attributable to him when there are implications that he was misguided. In other words, although he is physically responsible, he remains morally innocent as he was corrupted by some other person who instilled anger in this young man’s mind. The defense gets even more interesting in the sense that the lack of an express guilty plea paves way for Tsarnaev to lodge an appeal if the verdict happens to be unfavorable to him. This was not an option available to all the other famous defendants defended by Clarke. It is widely reported that Clarke is capable of seeing the good side of every human being – even in the one’s that the world generally tend to despise. Would she succeed in protecting Tsarnaev like she protected the other defendants? Would this mark a more glorious victory for justice?  We have to wait for the verdict to know whether justice would prevail.  Is it just to take the life of a man who took another’s life? Is it just to let him serve a life sentence and be supported by public funds? What is justice anyway???

(All images used in the posts unless otherwise mentioned are drawn from and the author does not hold copyright over the photos used.)

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