Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, along with his brother Tamerlan, was responsible for one of the most heinous criminal acts in Massachusetts history, the bombing of the 2013 Boston Marathon.
He has been tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. He is being held in the harshest prison the federal government has to offer, the so-called Supermax in Colorado. His execution is years away, but we in Massachusetts are mercifully rid of him.
His trial this spring was gut-wrenching — for the victims and their families, especially, but for everyone forced to relive that awful day. So it was surprising to hear that Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan wants to bring him back to the state. Ryan would like to try him for the murder of MIT police Officer Sean Collier, among other crimes that occurred as police sought to capture the brothers. Ryan’s tough-talking statement released on Friday left little doubt about her reasoning. “When you come into Middlesex County and execute a police officer in the performance of his duties and assault other officers attempting to effect his capture, it is appropriate that you should come back to Middlesex County to stand trial for that offense.”
Apparently, you haven’t faced justice until you’ve faced Middlesex County justice.
But, really, how myopic can you get? Mind you, the killing of Collier was among the crimes Tsarnaev was just convicted of, so it isn’t as if that act is going unpunished.
I asked Ryan Sunday why this city and region should go through the collective trauma of another Marathon trial. She spoke vaguely about keeping her options open in case Tsarnaev prevails on appeal. She talked about speaking to the victims at some point, presumably to get their thoughts about going forward. She said that Tsarnaev’s conviction “isn’t final,” an apparent reference to his appeal. But it isn’t as though the case could fall apart tomorrow. “We are keeping all of our legal options open,” Ryan said. “I think we are acting reasonably and thoughtfully.”
Like all death penalty cases, Tsarnaev’s conviction is under automatic appeal. His lawyers are seeking a new trial on the previously rejected grounds that his trial should have been moved elsewhere. Years of appeals will follow, because in death penalty cases no stone can be left unturned. More than one inmate on death row has been exonerated.
But Tsarnaev will not be the next example of that. His defense lawyer said repeatedly, in open court, that he committed the crimes he was charged with.
At his sentencing, Tsarnaev offered something of an apology for his actions — further evidence that the facts of his case are not, in any way, in dispute. He is guilty, and is never going to be exonerated. The absolute best he can ever hope for is life in prison. There is nothing to be gained from another conviction.
There are, however, a city and a community that are eager to begin to put the Marathon tragedy behind them, and raising the specter of an unnecessary legal battle is only an impediment to that. This case is over, thank goodness, and Ryan is the only person I know of who wishes for its resurrection.
Ryan has had a rocky tenure since becoming district attorney in 2013. More than a quarter of the staff left in her first year or so, and she was criticized for insensitive comments during the Jared Remy murder case. This won’t bolster confidence in her judgment.
The Marathon tragedy was bigger than Middlesex County, and Tsarnaev will has faced the wrath of the federal government. Middlesex County has nothing to add to that.