One of the advantages of liberal democracy is that there is a greater separation of powers in that system than a dictatorship, or the pseudo-democracies run by oligarchs behind the scenes, can ever have. Governments can be forced to answer to parliaments, even when they don’t want to, and judiciaries can act according to law rather than government dictate.
Everyone is still rightly outraged by the Watergate scandal from nearly 50 years ago. But in most of the world, Congress and the legal system would never have been able to bring down a president who obstructed justice because he knew it would implicate him in criminal acts.
Indeed, one of the factors which brought Nixon down was the very fact that he fired the Special Prosecutor who was building the case against him in the now notorious “Saturday Night Massacre.” Even then he only succeeded in doing this at the third attempt, two successive Attorney Generals resigning within a few minutes of each other rather than carry out the presidential order.
Consequently, the whole concept of “Miscarriage of Justice” has meaning in liberal democracies, as the independence of different branches of the state, and the media, can be used to ensure mistakes made by the judicial system are corrected. Furthermore, we usually discover that these miscarriages of justice are caused by a violation of the separation of powers: there has been political interference by the government in the judicial process, or by individuals who thought they were doing what the government wanted.
For all these reasons, a miscarriage of justice declared by the courts themselves after the event is BIG news. The victim often becomes a minor celebrity, and the campaigners who gained their release, often in the face of great hostility, are treated as heroes.
So why are we only seeing a small trickle of news about the overturning of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s death sentence? The story has been on prominent sites, yes, but compared with those about, say, NFL player Brian Banks, it is barely causing a ripple.
Admittedly the judgement in Tsarnaev’s case remains in place, it is merely the death sentence which has been overturned. But we all heard a lot more about Nixon Vice-President Spiro Agnew’s unsuccessful appeal for an income tax deduction for paying the court fines imposed on him for accepting bribes whilst Governor of Maryland, and that was merely a civil matter.
The overturning of Tsarnaev’s death sentence should be big news, but it isn’t. If we revisit the crime Tsarnaev was convicted for, we can see a host of reasons why – and why news organisations themselves, which are supposed to give the public the truth, have much to hide.
Long arm of misrule
There have always been many questions about the Boston Marathon Bombing. One of the reasons for this is that much of what we do know about it derives from TV footage of the crime itself, but this is one case where we can’t assume that seeing is believing. Also, there are questions about Georgian connections, and that would have opened a BIGGER can of worms.
Much of this footage has mysteriously vanished from Youtube searches. At one time one of the first videos which came up was a frame by frame analysis of the official footage of the event, shot “as it happened.”
However, many of the discrepancies highlighted in this analysis are also referenced by journalist Russ Baker. He describes in a series of articles the same pattern of vilification of evidence, and then wilful appropriation of the truth when it can no longer be ignored, which any investigative journalist is very familiar with.
There is the suspicious case of the news cameraman who appears to be operating his camera whilst wearing sunglasses. As much of the evidence used against Tsarnaev in court was in video form, it matters who this person was, and why he was filming in such an unprofessional way if he really belonged to a news network.
There is the fact that whenever a disputed part of the evidence of what was happening on the ground should have been shown, the official cameras panned up to broken glass in buildings, ignoring what could have been vital testimony. There is the fact that two disconnected halves of the same body somehow superimpose themselves on supposedly live footage, put there by an unknown hand who knew where the original shot was.
All this can be dismissed as mere conspiracy theory. The bombing did happen, and Tsarnaev has admitted it.
But so did Sirhan Sirhan, assassin of Robert Kennedy, who now says he has no memory of what happened or what his motive was. This is hardly surprising, as the fight to identify a possible second gunman, who would have actually fired the fatal shot, is led by Paul Schrade, who was shot in the same incident and doesn’t believe the official version either.
If it is possible that the official version of that 1968 assassination is incorrect, after all these years of intense investigation, you have to ask why, when every possible piece of evidence, genuine and otherwise, has been shown to the authorities? For whatever motive, someone has made a decision that only one version can be correct, and will not look at others backed by evidence.
This is exactly what governments do when furthering policy, but exactly what an independent judiciary should never do. This is how miscarriages of justice are identified, and therefore in any case where this happens, there is a possibility that the accepted facts might be wrong – and this should, by definition, be investigated by governments, judiciary and media.
True if the lesser evil
The appeals court decision to quash the death penalty imposed on Tsarnaev, who will still be imprisoned for life because the verdict was not questioned, was based on a variety of factors. The main one however was not vetting for jury bias.
Every member of every jury has some sort of bias. As corrupt former Premier of Queensland Joh Bjelke-Petersen pointed out, when it was revealed that the jury foreman at one of his trials was a member of his party, many of the other jurors were known opponents of his, who had an axe to grind now he was finally in the dock.
The issue here was that the judge at Tsarnaev’s trial didn’t ask prospective jurors what they thought they knew about the case before forming their opinion of the defendant. This affected whether they were more predisposed to listen to one set of arguments than another.
Somehow the system failed to discover that the forewoman of the jury had made Twitter posts praising Tsarnaev’s arrest and calling him a “piece of garbage,” despite his presumption of innocence. Another juror had defied court instructions by posting on twitter that he was a juror, leading one of his friends to declare he should “get on the jury” and send Tsarnaev “to jail where he will be taken care of,” before hearing a word of evidence in the case.
The appeal court has now decided that Tsarnaev did not receive a fair trial because the jurors were biased. However, it has also made clear that this only affects the decision to sentence him to death.
Apparently those same biases did not affect the jurors’ judgment of whether Tsarnaev was guilty or innocent. These statements indicating bias did not mention executing Tsarnaev, only assumed that he was guilty before he had been tried. They expressed no opinion on whether he should be executed or not, but are supposed to have affected the passing of that sentence but not the question of his guilt, which is what the statements are actually about.
Obviously, this is ludicrous. Tsarnaev has admitted his guilt, but so did several other people who have subsequently been declared innocent because the evidence does not support this contention. If admission of guilt alone is the criterion of guilt, there is no reason to try anyone who admits anything, but Tsarnaev was tried like any other person.
We are reminded that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, older brother of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was killed by police in a gunfight. Much like several other suspected terrorists in what could conceivably be false flag attacks – the ones where the police always found a foreign passport at the scene, and this somehow always got reported in the press, before the police themselves pointed out that no terrorist would carry his ID with him on a bombing mission.
As Russ Baker and his fellow investigate journalists have pointed out, Tamerlan had ties to the FBI. This explains why the Tsarnaev brothers were identified as the perpetrators so quickly, and why it is very convenient that Tamerlan isn’t around to tell the world what those ties were, and therefore what is in the files on him which the FBI refuses to release.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev wouldn’t be the first person to be promised rewards for confessing to a crime he didn’t commit. Sirhan Sirhan was due to be executed, but California then abolished the death penalty. Maybe there are some crimes even desperate politicians cannot stomach committing.
But you also can’t have bias without accusation. Those declared guilty by politicians, for political reasons, are found guilty by the media for those same political reasons. The mainstream media declared the Tsarnaev brothers guilty long before the courts did, and that is where the “jury bias” originated.
It is perfectly possible that the Tsarnaev brothers really did plan and execute the Boston Marathon Bombing on their own initiative. But the question remains – why has all the obvious official cover-up been necessary?
Why are there so many problems with the footage of the bombing? How did the FBI know exactly who to look for, and where, amongst that dense crowd of onlookers?
Why did the mainstream media immediately declare the Tsarnaev brothers guilty, just like many others who subsequently embarrassed the media when they were not only declared innocent, but victims of a fit-up by people who knew the evidence against them was impermissible, false or didn’t exist?
How did Tamerlan and other friends of the Tsarnaevs end up dead, despite their proven links to the FBI? Why was the identity of the officer who killed Ibragim Todashev, a friend of the Tsarnaevs, covered up until it was discovered that he had a track record of police brutality and making misleading statements, but had somehow bypassed all the necessary checks when being hired out of retirement by the FBI?
Even if the Tsarnaevs are guilty as charged, these things matter because they demonstrate that someone who has influence with the media, law enforcement and the judiciary knew what was going on and directed the response to it after the event. How many people have such influence, and how have they obtained it?
All roads lead to Rome
The US has conducted its alleged War on Terror for a generation now. But it has never explained who exactly is going to attack the mighty US of A, and how they are going to do it.
Enemy regimes have been identified with distressing frequency, but none has launched any missiles at the US. Whole populations and religions have been declared terrorist, yet the US has continued to arm and recruit for organisations it calls terrorist, and even taken over countries such as Georgia to provide a “legal” means of supplying them and directing their operations.
No terrorist organisation has anything to gain by attacking the US, which could wipe them all out in a week if it wanted. This is why you rarely see any reporting of the fact that the supposedly unstoppable Islamic State has been defeated by Muslim countries who actually oppose it. If people ask why Uncle Sam can’t do the same, they will soon find that Uncle Sam is keeping all these terrorists in business, because both sides need the other to function.
Doubtless there are individuals and groups in the US who do not agree with the US government or state, and are ready to take violent action against them. The same is true in any country. But why do you then use tainted evidence to identify and oppose them, if they are a genuine threat?
The US military-industrial complex needs wars. When the public starts objecting to the cost of these, it needs an ongoing terrorist threat. The US government needs one to justify its adventures and excuse domestic failings. The media needs one to provide easy answers which continue to give it access to bigger information it wants.
Only the US public, and those murdered in Boston, do not need a domestic terrorist threat. As ever, they are bottom of the queue. If the US can’t resolve this, it can only lead democracy to a destruction no one actually wants. This story is only the beginning, and much more will revealed as US presidential elections near, and a new poster boy for “law and order” is needed, and to impose the death penalty.
Seth Ferris, investigative journalist and political scientist, expert on Middle Eastern affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.