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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 108

Letter from America: Two Unfair Verdicts – My Two Cents!

By Dr. Habib Siddiqui

An Egyptian court - read ‘kangaroo’ court - has recently pronounced death sentences on ousted president Mohammed Morsi and more than 100 other people over a mass prison break in 2011. Such harsh sentences in Sisi's Egypt are not unsurprising. Sisi wants to be the latest Pharaoh of Egypt, and is serious about weeding out any potential resistance to his illegal power grab that has ousted a popularly elected president and his party.

More problematic, however, is the verdict here inside the USA regarding Boston bombing. The verdict was a surprise to most legal experts. Capital punishment has been banned in Massachusetts since 1987, and polls show that few in the state support the practice.

Polls show that more than two-thirds of Bostonians wanted DZHOKHAR TSARNAEV to receive a life sentence without possibility of parole. A number of victims of the attack also argued against the death penalty, including Bill and Denise Richards, the parents of an eight-year-old boy killed in the bombings. The “continued pursuit of [capital] punishment could bring years of appeals and prolong reliving the most painful day of our lives,” they wrote in a recent op-ed in the Boston Globe, the city's main daily.

The teenager Mr Tsarnaev was very poorly represented by his defense attorney Judy Clarke. The government’s decision to seek the death penalty was very controversial from the start. Despite overwhelming public opinion against death penalty, then Attorney General Eric Holder chose to send a strong message that the US will not tolerate such acts of terror. It did not matter to him that when the crime was committed Mr Tsarnaev was merely a teenager.

What bothers me most is what message we are sending to the world through such a verdict. As has been argued the teenager was raised by his older brother and followed him, without probably understanding the consequence of his blind following which turned out tragic and deadly. If I understand correctly from the court proceedings, he, however, did not personally trigger the bomb or cause anyone to die. He was an accomplice and nothing more. And yet he ends up sentenced to death for being an accomplice to a serious crime.

Professor James Alan Fox who teaches criminology at Northeastern University, Boston, recently argued in the USA Today that instead of this verdict a stronger message could have been sent had the outcome been life imprisonment. ‘Not only does the United States not tolerate terrorism, but it also does not need to kill to make the point,’ he wrote.

Compare this verdict against the verdict issued for the Blackwater case. On Monday, April 13, a federal judge sentenced a former Blackwater Worldwide security guard to life in prison and three others to 30-year terms for killing 14 unarmed civilians in a Baghdad traffic circle in 2007, an incident that fomented deep resentments about the accountability of American security forces during one of the bloodiest periods of the Iraq war.

U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth of the District rejected a claim of innocence by Nicholas A. Slatten, 31, of Sparta, Tenn., who received the life sentence after being convicted of murder in October for firing what prosecutors said were the first shots in the civilian massacre.

The three others — Paul A. Slough, 35, of Keller, Tex.; Evan S. Liberty, 32, of Rochester, N.H.; and Dustin L. Heard, 33, of Maryville, Tenn. — were sentenced to 30 years plus one day after being convicted of multiple counts of manslaughter and attempted manslaughter.

So, what message are we sending to the rest of the world? Are the lives of those civilians in Iraq unworthy or infinitely less worthy compared to our Americans here in the USA? So, while an immature teenager gets death sentence (while he was just an accomplice to his older brother that had committed a serious crime), our trigger happy American criminals who have murdered so many are getting almost a free pass in our judicial system. Is this fair? Let's not forget that nearly a million Iraqis were killed because of the total breakdown of army rules and policies during occupation of Iraq - from soldiers to contractors. If a teenager who did not personally murder anyone but still could get a death sentence for being an accomplice to a heinous crime should not the Blackwater criminal guards deserve death for their more serious crimes?

You be the judge. I am confused and am not happy when we expect the rest of the world to follow our model and preach the rest of the world to judge fairly while we send such a wrong message.

- Asian Tribune -

Letter from America: Two Unfair Verdicts – My Two Cents!
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