On the Rights of the Boston Bomber
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By Colby Stephens
In 1770 English soldiers fired into a crowd of civilians. Five people were killed, another six were wounded. While not a premeditated act, the Boston Massacre served as an act of war, and was an example of what the Declaration of Independence later described as standing armies in times of peace which were rendered independent and superior to the Civil power. The standing armies were unpopular among the English citizens in the American colonies, and the citizens intensely sought to punish the soldiers for their crimes. John Adams, later a signer of the Declaration of Independence, clearly understood the solemnity of the circumstances and adamantly set out to ensure that there be a fair trial for the accused. Three years after the massacre, Adams declared that securing a fair trial was one of the most important achievements of his life. Further, he stated that honoring the process of the law did not trivialize the massacre.
Now, 243 years later, another massacre in Boston has occurred: The bombing at the Boston Marathon. Several U.S. Senators are calling for the bombing suspect, American citizen Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, to be treated as an enemy combatant and deny him his Constitutional right to the due process of the law. This position masquerades as patriotism, but it proves to be in the interests of tyranny. Initially, the Senators’ position seems plausible, for a massive quantity of evidence indicates Tsarnaev’s culpability. He took the right of life from several people, and severely maimed others, so it seems fitting to deprive him of his rights in response. But this is a dangerous train of thought to follow.
John Adams and the other Founding Fathers knew that the government’s response to capital and infamous crimes must be restricted, for an unrestrained government will be run according to the sentiments of men, rather than according to dialectics. While Tsarnaev’s reprehensible actions likely deserve capital punishment, reason must prevail, and he must be allowed due process. It is not for this traitor’s protection that due process must be respected, but rather it is for freedom’s preservation. Denying due process to Tsarnaev would set a dangerous precedent for the government to decide which citizens to whom the Constitution applies.
Let America now follow the example of John Adams and set aside its justifiably angry sentiments in favor of allowing Tsarnaev his right to due process. Denying him this right would be for America to perform an injustice on itself. This is underscored by the fact that Tsarnaev’s fate is sealed in the abundant evidence against him. To give him a proper trial will not allow for him to go free or be acquitted. Giving him a trial will, however, help ensure that Americans will continue to live free.