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Editorial: Thankless, crucial jobs in bombing case

As we write, the fate of alleged Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s body remains unresolved. No city or state wants to be the place where he is interred, and it remains to be seen whether Russia, where his parents now live, will permit the importation of his corpse. The reluctance is understandable. No community wants to be seen as the final resting place of a terrorist or mass murderer, nor have to cope with the ghoulish strain of tourism that might result. But one measure of society is how it treats its dead; another how it treats those accused of even the most heinous crimes. The case of Tsarnaev brothers – Dzhokhar is recovering in a prison hospital – is testing both.

We applaud those who obeyed their professional codes of conduct despite their revulsion at the cowardly acts allegedly committed by the brothers. Among them are the doctors and nurses who saved Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s life. Another person who has passed that test is Worcester, Mass., funeral director Peter Stefan. Stefan agreed to accept Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s body and allowed an uncle who, though horrified by his nephews’ alleged actions, nonetheless acted in accordance with Muslim practices and prepared the suspected terrorist’s body for burial.

“We take an oath to do this. Can I pick and choose? No. Can I separate the sins from the sinners? No. We are burying a dead body. That’s what we do,” Stefan told a reporter for the Associated Press. But Stefan has searched the Eastern Seaboard for a place willing to accept Tsarnaev’s remains and come up empty.

A civilized society does not leave a corpse, no matter who it is, on the street or dump it in a landfill. If no private cemetery owner permits Tsarnaev’s burial, government – local, state or federal – should, as Stefan requested, make space for him in a potter’s field.

A society and a legal system can function because professional oaths and codes of conduct like those observed by funeral directors, physicians, lawyers and others oblige them to serve even the most hateful among us for the public good. At times such people are the difference between civilization and barbarity, between the rule of law and the actions of a lynch mob.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who could face the death penalty, will be defended by a team that includes Miriam Conrad, chief federal public defender for Massachusetts, Rhodes Island and New Hampshire, and Judy Clarke, the lawyer and former public defender who was on the teams that represented Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber; Jared Loughner, the mentally ill man who shot U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in the head and killed a judge; Atlanta Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph; and accused 9/11 terrorist conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui.

Public defenders have often thankless, always crucial jobs. At times they’re reviled for representing the reprehensible, but without them the American system of justice couldn’t begin to provide equal justice for all. Twenty-five years ago, in a case called Gideon v. Wainwright, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized that when it unanimously ruled that a lower court, by denying an indigent man legal counsel, violated his rights under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments. The Sixth guarantees the accused “the assistance of counsel for his defense”; the Fourteenth forbids depriving anyone of life or liberty without due process of law. Today, no matter what one believes the fate of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should be, we are a better society because people like Stefan, the medical staff who saved Tsarnaev’s life, and his defenders are willing to endure the enmity that can come with acting on principle to aid someone accused of a loathsome crime.

Legacy Comments7

Jim, that's an excellent question, and I answered it once, but then on looking for to plug in the link to the website below, The Monitor felt like to erase my comment before it was even posted! My presuption is that so much of $ Federal Funds are allocated per TYPE of case, and that #x-number of attorneys can share it. For example of in the Ed Brown case against the I.R.S. I was "told" as "heard" but never did read in writing of that a million dollars was available to spend on Ed & Elaine, plus each of the four co-conspirators so-called, with "liberty tools" is what they said of rights by the 2nd Amendment. $1 million x (2+4=) 6 defendants. And that numerous people were put onto the witness list but never called (including me and) like the governor and Secretary of State to have to explain WHY they did not assert and report the reciprocity in RSA Ch. 123:1 of that since we are forbidden to have our civil and criminal writs of process served AND be effective on Federal soil that they of the agents of "Uncle Sam" can have power to rule over us Article 12 inhabitants with their civil & criminal process anyway, and even when never 1-8-17 U.S. Const., nor N.H. Article 1 "Consent"ed and "consent"ed to respectfully.

Pertaining to the burial of the Boston bomber. Take him way out to sea in shark infested waters and bury him at sea. Problem solved.

What section of the 6th or 14th amendment says he is entitled to a defense TEAM. If I committed a crime I would struggle to pay for ONE lawyer, why do we keep reading of these people getting TEAMS of lawyers?.... AS far as the body, cremate or bury the same as any other person who is not claimed. He deserves no special treatment, just do it.

It really amazes me too of this 6th Amendment, of the government agents of AFTER the fact are given Federal Funds to do the in-court proceedings to defend, but that like in the "Animal Farm" book of: "some pigs are more equal than others" of the fact of like when the "Uncle Sam" agents truck N.H. Article 12 inhabitants across state lines to Maine of AGAINST the law that they can still be called "Law Enforcement" agents! Preliminary hearings are a PART of the trial and ALL trials, (not just some) SHALL be held in the state AND Federal district of WHERE the offense occured! The U.S. Attorney's Office and F.B.I. is made up of hypocrites!

The people of the US, specifically the state of Mass, and the city of Cambridge gave these two money for food, housing, medical care, tuition, and all else they needed. Bury him in the closest public cemetery and be done with it.

Obama close pal and confidant Bill Ayres did much worse and he gets to visit the White House.....Liberals in MA should bury this terrorist next to Paul Revere as he is a freedom fighter in their eyes

bury him at Gitmo

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