Tsarnaev: Making the Case for Life

The penalty phase of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's trial doesn't begin until April 21. In the meantime, here's a photo I came across yesterday.

I think it effectively communicates more than the difference in age between the brothers. Tamerlan is just so dominant in the photo. Even the way he has his arm around Jahar seems controlling to me. Looking at it, it is hard to see how, even years later, Jahar would be his "equal partner" in anything.

Also, here's a letter Dzhokhar submitted to UMass Dartmouth in January, 2013 in an application to have his financial aid reinstated: [More....]

He writes that Russia falsely abducts innocent men and claims they are terrorists. He says he had a rough time recently because of the stress of his family returning to Chechnya but he is ready to turn his attention back to school. He says he wants to do well in school so he can help those in need, in "my country, particularly my relatives."

There's nothing about religion in the letter.

Jahar comes across like a well-meaning, vulnerable and abandoned teenager, searching for meaning in his life. Putting the letter and photo together, it's not hard to imagine that Tamerlan saw his brother's vulnerability, and because he was so far gone in his radicalization, he pounced on it and took advantage of it. I don't think Tamerlan did this because he was evil, but because, like so many who commit these atrocious acts, he thought he had a legitimate grievance against America and bombing was an appropriate retaliatory measure.

In related news, the Boston Globe reports today the jury foreman is a female restaurant manager.

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    I don't see "dominance" at all (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by jbindc on Mon Apr 13, 2015 at 07:12:42 AM EST
    I see lots of love and affection between two brothers who are very much at ease with each other and who are very close, despite their age difference.

    If that picture is used to demonstrate Tamerlan's dominance and influence over Jahar, it's a loser IMO.

    plus (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by nyjets on Mon Apr 13, 2015 at 08:33:38 AM EST
    Plus it is only one photo. It proves nothing one way or another. Heck, it does not demonstrate anything one way or another.
    And you are right. I do not see dominance one way or another as well.

    I Agree... (5.00 / 3) (#3)
    by ScottW714 on Mon Apr 13, 2015 at 09:31:20 AM EST
    ...it could be father and son, obviously an older and much bigger person is always going to have some look of dominance because of size.

    Plus they can find a zillion other photos in which they appear to be equals, I would think.

    Same with the request, and like most requests, are written to influence rather than give an insight to the thinking of the writer.  Although he did go off the rails a bit, but I don't know if that would help or hurt him.

    I hope Clarke has more than a photo and a request for funds.  His age would be what would appeal to me, even if he did it solo, he was more or less a kid, and as an adult I understand that a lot of things I believed at that age were pretty dumb.  Its very easy to be influenced at that age, and that is something all of us can at the very least, relate to and possibly understand and empathize with.

    But that is coming form someone who would never vote to kill him, regardless.


    As someone with lots of siblings (5.00 / 3) (#13)
    by sj on Mon Apr 13, 2015 at 02:37:06 PM EST
    (and lots of cousins) I would say that this kind open affection from a sibling so much older is absolutely dominating and influential. Unless the younger sibling has a chip on his shoulder and/or a really strong sense of self, the sort of hero worship that can result can't help but be influential -- even if the elder sibling didn't intend it so. It's also very flattering (when it isn't annoying) to the elder sibling.

    I'm curious, do you have siblings? I think you do, right?


    I am the oldest of 4 girls (5.00 / 1) (#27)
    by jbindc on Tue Apr 14, 2015 at 04:47:21 AM EST
    And it is the baby in our family who definitely has the most dominant personality (although, we are all pretty loud and opinionated - hazards of being from a mostly Italian family!)

    That's Fine... (none / 0) (#29)
    by ScottW714 on Tue Apr 14, 2015 at 08:38:05 AM EST
    ...but the point being made was that somehow a photo can prove that dynamic.

    Okay, I'll give you that (none / 0) (#30)
    by sj on Tue Apr 14, 2015 at 11:21:25 AM EST
    I see nothing out of the ordinary (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by CoralGables on Mon Apr 13, 2015 at 09:34:01 AM EST
    in a very old picture. Also can see where the letter could work equally well against him.

    I suspect life over death will be the outcome and very happy the next phase doesn't begin until after next Monday's Boston Marathon.

    I thought it was going to happen (5.00 / 2) (#7)
    by CST on Mon Apr 13, 2015 at 09:53:45 AM EST
    at the same time for a second which would just be bad.  I kind of hate that it's even going on for the marathon because you know that's what most of the reporting will be about.

    I had a friend from out of state ask to visit the "bomb site" and I had to politely explain that no, we don't call it that - it's the marathon finish line, the boston public library, copley square - anything really but the "bomb site".  He doesn't get to own that, we do.  So I just hope that the marathon coverage focuses on the actual marathon.

    I too suspect life over death.  But we shall see.


    I idolize my brother (5.00 / 2) (#9)
    by BarnBabe on Mon Apr 13, 2015 at 10:59:16 AM EST
    He is 5 years older and we have a mutual admiration society thing going. He is on the West Coast and I am on the East. We talk a few times a month. We do have similar political beliefs, thank you Mom and her love for JFK. But, we also have our own ideas about them. We will agree and disagree. I never felt dominated all these years, I felt loved and I adored him.

    Looking at the picture I see a happier older brother who was still just a big brother. The letter does explain a lot but I have written college letters for others and often write what I believe will be the right cord to get them accepted. You will note the lack of complaint against America. Rather, you see mention of Russia and how horrible the people are being treated. Reading this I would suspect that his Mother would be the one placing a bomb over in her country, not in Boston. Dzhokhar acted more American, shooting pool, smoking some weed, etc. But he was part of a family that molded his beliefs and although it might not have been his plan to kill a bunch of innocent people, he went along with the bombing plan to please his family members. Maybe he just got caught up with the excitement of doing something to bring attention to their plight.

    Personally, I am against the death penalty. I can understand the personal vengeance people want, but I could never be the one to pull the switch. Maybe it is because I do not like stooping to the level of committing the same brutality. Then again, death is the easy way out. I would rather be killed then spend the rest of my life in a tiny closet cell never knowing freedom again. That is the worse punishment.  

    Nicely said. (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by Mr Natural on Mon Apr 13, 2015 at 07:34:10 PM EST
    Especially your final paragraph.  Life in that 7 by 12 cell is spectacularly cruel.  Unfortunately, it ain't unusual.  The report on the ADX I linked to several times claims over 80,000 american inmates are currently in Solitary confinement, which used to be called the Pennsylvania System.  (Peter G?)  

    Every aspect of this case sucks.  The victims.  The carnage.  The horror.  The misery.  The pain.  Even the remaining life of the perpetrator is going to absolutely suck.


    The important consideration, (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by KeysDan on Mon Apr 13, 2015 at 04:15:30 PM EST
     is that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is getting a fair trial and a good defense given the circumstances--Tsarnaev admitted guilt (he did not plead guilty), the prosecution still had the burden of proof, and the defense has made a decent case for avoiding the death penalty.   As an opponent of the death penalty, life without parole, is the right penalty.  But, I do not envy this jury.  

    Yes.. (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by Reconstructionist on Mon Apr 13, 2015 at 04:28:06 PM EST
      this is a case that tests pretty much anyone who does not come from a moral absolutist perspective in opposition the death penalty.

      He does have highly qualified and zealous counsel.

      This is not a case where  innocence is arguable or even that proof beyond a reasonable doubt is arguably lacking.

      In my opinion, he presents very little in the way of a compelling case of deserving "mercy."

      It's impossible to say at this point without a thorough review of the entire record that he has in fact received a "fair trial" but no unfairness is readily apparent.

      I am not a moral absolutist and I have always premised my opposition on the irremediable  nature of the punishment in light of the fact we know wrongful convictions do occur and disparate application of the penalty based on race and class of defendants and victims.

      At this point, I am more or less reduced to the argument that executing him despite his being the metaphorical poster child for the DP is that executing him might  make it easier for others to be so punished and some of those others will fit in the  categories above.


    Good points, all. (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by KeysDan on Mon Apr 13, 2015 at 04:52:26 PM EST
    Moreover, you are correct that we do not yet know, as a fact, that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has received a fair trial.  I had hoped to convey your though of no signs of unfairness, as well, with "getting a fair trail,"   You said it better.  

    I appreciate those that work against (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by Jack203 on Mon Apr 13, 2015 at 08:03:32 PM EST
    the death penalty.  It is a known fact the US has executed innocent people in the past.  Even if one innocent person out of 100 is wrongfully executed, that alone is reason enough to remove the death penalty.

    However, I can't feel any sympathy for Tsarnaev.  No matter how hard I try.  He has shown no regret.  What he did was the definition of evil.  I have more sympathy for the insane.

    I'm not "rooting" for the death penalty.  But I don't care if Tsarnaev lives or dies.  There has to be more sympathetic people that are due to be executed.

    That's pretty much how I feel (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by McBain on Mon Apr 13, 2015 at 10:48:59 PM EST
    The death penalty needs to go but I won't lose any sleep if he dies.

    Jahar search for purpose (5.00 / 2) (#32)
    by TycheSD on Tue Apr 14, 2015 at 03:16:00 PM EST
    Jeralyn writes that Jahar sounded as though he was searching  for meaning.  I agree that he seemed adrift.  Maybe the bombing gave purpose to his life - sick as that sounds.  But maybe that's why so many young people turn to "causes" like Muslim jihad, Baader-Meinhof gang, Irish Republican Army, or American Vietnam anti-war revolutionary groups like the Weathermen - which drew Obama friends Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn.  

    In Saudi Arabia there's major effort being put into programs to prevent young people from becoming terrorists.  

    I am anti death penalty, anti LWOP and anti solitary confinement.  I wish American society was interested in rehabilitating people rather than punishing them - which is all people care about.  People can change - and do.  Whenever I hear about another execution carried out in this country, I cringe inside.  I feel as though we're perpetuating the violence and creating even more bad "karma" for our country.

    I look at that picture of the brothers and the happy, confident look on Tamerlan's face and I become incredibly sad by the wasted promise of these two immigrants.  I have cried over both victims and the perpetrators in this case.  I find that my desire to give mercy to Dzhokhar takes nothing away from my sympathy and sorrow for the maimed and the suffering from the Boston Marathon bombing.  It's a tragedy for all.

    Victim's Parents (5.00 / 1) (#38)
    by ScottW714 on Fri Apr 17, 2015 at 09:36:32 AM EST
    The parents of Martin Richard -- the 8-year-old boy killed in the Boston Marathon bombing -- are urging prosecutors to end their quest to have convicted attacker Dzhokhar Tsarnaev executed, saying that the potentially drawn-out process could prolong the anguish for victims and their families.
    "We know that the government has its reasons for seeking the death penalty, but the continued pursuit of that punishment could bring years of appeals and prolong reliving the most painful day of our lives," the parents wrote. "We hope our two remaining children do not have to grow up with the lingering, painful reminder of what the defendant took from them, which years of appeals would undoubtedly bring."


    Here is the response (none / 0) (#40)
    by CST on Fri Apr 17, 2015 at 09:46:59 AM EST
    from the US attorney:

    "Over the past two years, I have heard from scores of survivors and victims about their feelings regarding this case," she said. "Many have strong views about the best way to proceed. Those views have been heard and have played a role -- and continue to play a role -- in the Department of Justice's handling of this case."


    "Collier's sister, Jennifer L. Lemmerman, wrote on Facebook this week that she does not believe in the death penalty."   Collier is the MIT cop.

    "Whenever someone speaks out against the death penalty, they are challenged to imagine how they would feel if someone they love were killed. I've been given that horrible perspective and I can say that my position has only strengthened,''


    That Makes No Sense... (none / 0) (#43)
    by ScottW714 on Fri Apr 17, 2015 at 11:17:47 AM EST
    ...and this:
    imagine how they would feel if someone they love were killed

    I guess the DA doesn't mean the DP defendant; that is just about the dumbest thing I have read.

    What I don't like they used the photos of the boy to bring some of the jurors to tears, yet his family doesn't want the DP.  It's like the DA has some other reason for proceeding that has nothing to do with what people directly related to the trial or the people of Boston.


    You're confusing attributuon of comments (5.00 / 1) (#45)
    by CoralGables on Fri Apr 17, 2015 at 11:45:09 AM EST
     from multiple sources

    that wasn't a quote from the DA (none / 0) (#47)
    by CST on Fri Apr 17, 2015 at 12:45:14 PM EST
    sorry, that was a quote from the sister of the cop who was killed, who was outlining why she didn't want the death penalty.

    But yes, if anything opposition to the death penalty has only strengthened in Boston with this trial.  It's as if everyone answered the question "what if it happened to you" and decided - nope.  It really makes no sense why they would keep pushing it.

    "Over the last month, we've seen support for life in prison grow by about 10 points [in the Boston area],"

    "According to the poll, only 31 percent of Boston area residents said they support the death penalty for Tsarnaev. That support drops to 26 percent in the city of Boston."


    Guilt is not forgivable (2.00 / 1) (#26)
    by Nankumota on Tue Apr 14, 2015 at 01:04:06 AM EST
    If this person is proved guilty then he would be hanged for sure, meanwhile her mother posted on Russian Social media site: VK, that her son is "best of the best" as reported by vokativ.com

    What he did was evil. (2.00 / 1) (#35)
    by Payaso on Thu Apr 16, 2015 at 04:20:49 AM EST
    I don't care if he thought he had a legitimate grievance or not.  What he did was evil.

    Regardless of the sentence he receives he has forfeited his right to live.

    I understand (5.00 / 3) (#36)
    by Reconstructionist on Thu Apr 16, 2015 at 08:40:50 AM EST
     the "forfeiture" position and in some rare cases I might not even challenge it. I would however state that  even if one accepts that a particular person has no "right to live" because of something he did that position does not inexorably lead to the conclusion  that the government should kill him.

      At that point the decision about what to do with a person who has no right to, or does not deserve to,  live can be viewed as saying more about us as a society than the "evil" of the person in question. We can acknowledge the evil and the lack of a right to live and still not choose to kill him.

       Maybe it's not "evil" to kill an "evil" person who has committed a heinous crime but many would say we should strive for greater humaneness  than merely  not evil.


    I Am Not Going to Lose Sleep... (5.00 / 1) (#37)
    by ScottW714 on Thu Apr 16, 2015 at 08:53:39 AM EST
    ...if he dies, but IMO the problem with the DP is it forces society to spend a lot of energy trying to figure out to 'humanely' kill people, and that is far worse for society that a murderer sitting in prison for the rest of their life.

    Plus I never really got the 'He did a bad thing, he murdered people, so we must do a good thing and murder him' argument.  It doesn't make sense, and is the only instance in which the crime one commits is perpetrated on them as punishment.  Well except for people who lock others in cages...


    I'm 6 1/2 years older than my youngest brother (none / 0) (#5)
    by Reconstructionist on Mon Apr 13, 2015 at 09:44:05 AM EST
     A picture from when I was 17 and he was 10 would look pretty similar.  The fact I was (rather typically) much larger than him when we were much younger contributed nothing to my ability to control him once we were both fully grown.

      Now, I do think the fact I am the oldest and he is the "baby" of the family still has some effect on the dynamic of our relationship even though we are middle aged. Is he more likely to defer to me than vice versa? that might well be the case. I take the lead in things like arranging care for my mom and decision-making concerning property and things like that.

      But, then again, I have never asked him to defer to me by going along with my plan to plant bombs in a crowded place and kill and maim innocent people. I suspect that even at 19 he probably would have politely declined.

    I don't support the ... (none / 0) (#10)
    by Robot Porter on Mon Apr 13, 2015 at 11:58:08 AM EST
    the death penalty.  

    So there's no issue for me here.

    Off topic comments deleted (none / 0) (#11)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Apr 13, 2015 at 12:19:35 PM EST
    Please keep your comments relevant to Tsarnaev.

    Observsation... (none / 0) (#12)
    by ScottW714 on Mon Apr 13, 2015 at 01:33:04 PM EST
    ...seems like he is blaming Russia for killing Chechens, but the beef behind the bombings was Americans killing Muslims.  Is this two separate issues, or did blame shift from Russia to American for the same people being killed ?

    Or did he not blame Americans because he wanted financial aid from America ?

    And/or possibly what he wrote in the note (none / 0) (#14)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Apr 13, 2015 at 03:23:39 PM EST
    was what he figured would be effective in getting him what he wanted from the school?

    Right, I mentioned That Twice... (none / 0) (#17)
    by ScottW714 on Mon Apr 13, 2015 at 04:49:54 PM EST
    ...just wondering if anyone knew either way.  

    If anything that could show he is capable of lying when he needs something of value.

    Does the defendant make a statement or take the stand in paternity phase for the DP.  IOW are we going to hear from him ?

    Off topic.
    Form a different closed thread last week.
    The comment about the officer lying about the events of the shooting was what I read from the board that reviews shootings.  I have not read the actual report and they did not expand on what he lied about.  Only that he lied and they were suspicious before the video came out.

    Not trying to jack this thread, sorry.


    Penalty, not Paternity (none / 0) (#18)
    by ScottW714 on Mon Apr 13, 2015 at 04:50:36 PM EST
    Can you be more specific about signs of dominance? (none / 0) (#22)
    by parse on Mon Apr 13, 2015 at 09:16:03 PM EST
    It's hard for me to imagine you would see this picture as illustrating dominance if you didn't know anything about the individuals pictured. You've mentioned the older brother's arm around Dzokhar, but I don't that doesn't read dominant to me.

    If, while looking out toward the camera, Dzokhar kept one eye monitoring his brother, or held his head down indicating submission, I would read the photo as evidence of domination. But he looks broadly out at the camera, not apparently overly concerned with the older sibling at his side.

    I'm just not seeing it.

    I'm not going to read too much into that photo (5.00 / 2) (#25)
    by McBain on Mon Apr 13, 2015 at 10:51:32 PM EST
    but common sense tells us there's a good chance he looked up to his older brother and may have been mislead.

    The younger (none / 0) (#28)
    by jbindc on Tue Apr 14, 2015 at 04:51:37 AM EST
    Also has his hand on his older brother's leg - a sign of affection.  The only discomfort I see is that of a preteen who, like most kids that age, doesn't want his picture taken.

    Question About McVeigh Dominance of Nichols (none / 0) (#23)
    by RickyJim on Mon Apr 13, 2015 at 10:15:31 PM EST
    Jeralyn, I understand that Terry Nichols claimed that he was dominated and coerced by McVeigh into aiding the Oklahoma City Fed Building bombing.  Did this play a big part in getting two juries to refuse to sentence Nichols to death?  Is the parallel with the Tsarnaev case close?  TIA.

    The judge (none / 0) (#31)
    by CST on Tue Apr 14, 2015 at 01:03:05 PM EST
    has "told jurors not to attend Monday's Marathon or any of the related events. He also told them not to watch media coverage of the race or of the anniversary on Wednesday of the 2013 bombing."

    The timing of this is really unfortunate, it's going to be hard to avoid all marathon coverage.  It's one of those events that takes over the city.


    Video at Wai Kru gym (none / 0) (#33)
    by TycheSD on Tue Apr 14, 2015 at 04:14:35 PM EST
    Video taken of the brothers (and a 3rd man - still unidentified) at the Wai Kru gym 72 hours before the bombing also revealing - showing Tam as dominant, Dzhokhar as skinny - in pants that look like they're ready to fall off, and somewhat timid compared to his brother.

    Gym Owner's Recollections (none / 0) (#34)
    by RickyJim on Wed Apr 15, 2015 at 09:03:52 AM EST
    Half an hour interview including stuff on Todashev who was killed by the FBI in Florida.  The owner points out that meek Dzhokhar  took off his shoes when asked while Tamerlan gave lip.

    Another group of people (none / 0) (#39)
    by CST on Fri Apr 17, 2015 at 09:43:39 AM EST
    who want the feds to drop the death penalty charges.


    What did site rules did they violate? (none / 0) (#42)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Fri Apr 17, 2015 at 11:09:36 AM EST
    I see no links, no solicitation, no foul language - just a comment from afar.  If you bother to look at the comment history for this person, you'd see that they've been around and commented on other things in the past.  

    vokativ.com (none / 0) (#44)
    by ScottW714 on Fri Apr 17, 2015 at 11:19:06 AM EST
    It's blocked here at work so I assume it's malicious.

    Assumptions, eh? Scott. (none / 0) (#46)
    by Mr Natural on Fri Apr 17, 2015 at 11:48:07 AM EST
    I looked.  It's a news site.  No sign of a revenue model.