This is more about the state of American society today than it is about Boston Marathon jihad murderer Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The Boston Globe reported Friday that “in a 182-page ruling that infuriated some victims [no kidding], the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled that George A. O’Toole Jr., the judge in Tsarnaev’s 2015 trial, ‘did not meet the standard’ of fairness while presiding over jury selection.” The appeals court accordingly overturned Tsarnaev’s death sentence. Aside from cheating Tsarnaev out of his 72 virgins, this appeal denies justice to his victims.
Judge O. Rogeriee Thompson wrote in her ruling that “a core promise of our criminal justice system is that even the very worst among us deserves to be fairly tried and lawfully punished.” That is undeniably true, as is Thompson’s observation that the bombings were “one of the worst domestic terrorist attacks since the 9/11 atrocities.”
But how unfair was the trial in fact, and how unfair could it have been? There is no question that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is guilty. His actions were captured on video and abundantly documented. What’s more, he remained defiantly unrepentant for a considerable period after the attack. As prosecutors argued in April 2015 that he deserved the death penalty, they released a video of Tsarnaev three months after his attack, looking into the security camera in his cell, primping his hair in the reflection, and then flashing the V sign and then giving his middle finger to his jailers.
And why not? He believed he had done a righteous deed. The motivations of Dzhokhar and his brother and fellow jihad murderer Tamerlan Tsarnaev became clear very quickly after Dzhokhar was apprehended. CNN reported a week after the bombings that “Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, wounded and held in a Boston hospital, has said his brother—who was killed early Friday—wanted to defend Islam from attack.”
And just before he was captured, when he was hiding out inside a pleasure boat, Dzhokhar wrote a long self-justification on the inside of the boat, including the line: “When you attack one Muslim, you attack all Muslims.”
It came to light soon after the bombings that on a Russian-language social media page Dzhokhar had featured a drawing of a bomb under the heading “send a gift,” and just above links to sites about Islam. Tamerlan’s YouTube page contained two videos by Sheikh Feiz Mohammed. According to a report published in The Australian in January 2007, in a video that came to the attention of authorities at the time, Feiz Mohammed “urges Muslims to kill the enemies of Islam and praises martyrs with a violent interpretation of jihad.”
Tamerlan also said, “I’m very religious.” His friend Donald Larking affirmed this. “Tamerlan Tsarnaev was my friend and we talked about everything from politics to religion,” according to Larking. “He was very, very religious. He believed that the Qur’an was the one true word and he loved it.” Tamerlan did not drink alcohol because Allah forbade it—“God said no alcohol”—and his Italian girlfriend had converted to Islam, as his American wife did later.
The Boston Marathon bombs were similar to IEDs that jihadis used in Afghanistan and Iraq, and Faisal Shahzad, who tried to set off a jihad car bomb in Times Square in the summer of 2010, also used a similar bomb. The instructions for making such a bomb had even been published in al-Qaeda’s Inspire magazine.
Not only were the motivations of the Tsarnaev brothers abundantly clear; it is likely that they were actually tied in somehow to the international jihad network—as was indicated by how they fought off Boston police early on the Friday after the Marathon bombings with military-grade explosives. The question of where they got those explosives has never been answered. Nor has it ever been explained where the brothers got the military training that they reportedly displayed during the fight against police before Tamerlan was killed and Dzhokhar was captured.
“I ask Allah to have mercy on me, my brother, and my family,” Tsarnaev said in 2015. But what about mercy for those he murdered and maimed? His victims have no chance to appeal the death penalty that he gave to them. But American society does not have the will anymore to take a strong stand against criminals of this kind, and that means there will be more of them.