Boston bombing suspect Dzhokar Tsarnaev, 19, faces victims Wednesday for the first time in an arraignment hearing scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m. The hundreds of victims and their families have been given first priority in seating at the Boston courthouse. Some say attending won’t heal the wounds, but others seek closure.
JP Norden, 33, who lost his leg in the bombing April 15, will not attend. Nor will his younger brother, Paul Norden, 31, who also lost a leg. “Going to court and seeing him [Tsarnaev] is not going to get me better or anything, so … it doesn’t matter to me right now,” Norden told CBS Boston.
Norden’s mother and uncle feel differently.
“It’s going to give me a chance to see if I can read or understand that this kid does have any remorse,” Norden’s uncle, Peter Brown, told CBS.
“My boys woke up completely normal, they went to watch the marathon, and then our lives have been turned upside down and inside out,” his mother, Liz Norden, said. She has watched her sons struggle to do things that used to be easy, and she said going to court is just something she feels the need to do.
Tsarnaev’s mother will not be in the court room, though some of his relations in the United States may be, reports UK publication The Daily Telegraph. Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, who lives in the Dagestan region of southern Russia, told the Telegraph she would not attend, but did not answer further questions. She has maintained that her sons, Dzhokar and the late Tamerlan Tsarnaev, were framed—and she is not alone.
Many Chechens Believe Tsarnaev Framed
In a recent interview with Eurasianet.org, an acquaintance of the Tsarnaev family who spends his summers in the Chechen capital, Grozny, said it is a common view among Chechens in the region that the Tsarnaevs were framed.
Khassan Baiev helped the Chechen Tsarnaev family when they first arrived in the United States in 2002, having been asked to do so by a mutual friend. “When the bombings happened, I was so shocked,” he said.
The father of the family, Anzor Tsarnaev, had told Baiev his family moved to Kyrgyzstan when Stalin deported Chechens in 1944. In Kyrgyzstan, they had experienced great discrimination, including beatings.
In Grozny, where Baiev now works during the summers at a children’s hospital, posters were plastered around the city in support of Dzhokar Tsarnaev following the bombing.
According to Eurasianet.org, one poster read: “[Tsarnaev] badly needs your help now and your support, even if it’s just moral support. … We ask you not to stay indifferent; the more people know about it, the easier it is to get justice.”
In the village of Alkhan Kala, close to Grozny, a dentist named Sayeed told Eurasianet.org: “Most people here think some secret service is responsible for the bombings,” Sayeed said. “We don’t know why they did it, but they must have some goal. This is why they used those two young brothers.” The article was published Tuesday, showing this is a current view.
Anzor has also claimed his sons were wronged by U.S. authorities.
Evidence Against Tsarnaev
The indictment states that Dzhokar Tsarnaev wrote an incriminating message on the boat he hid in while police searched for him on April 19: “The US government is killing our innocent civilians. I can’t stand to see such evil go unpunished … we Muslims are one body, you hurt one you hurt us all.
“Now I don’t like killing innocent people it is forbidden in Islam but ( … ) stop killing our innocent people and we will stop.”
The indictment also states that Tsarnaev downloaded information published by al-Qaeda related to building bombs and jihad, according to Harvard newspaper, the Harvard Crimson.
Tsarnaev is being arraigned in a federal court for mass-murder, the use of a weapon of mass destruction, and more. The Tsarnaev brothers are allegedly responsible for four deaths and hundreds of injuries. If convicted, Tsarnaev could get the death penalty. A jury in Massachussets has not executed anyone in nearly 70 years, reports WMUR9.
People lined up Wednesday morning outside the courthouse, several hours before the trial, reported the Boston Herald. Next door, the probable cause hearing was also taking place in the mass murder trial of James “Whitey” Bulger.
Public Desensitized, Criminals Glorified by Trials?
Boston Herald commentator Joe Fitzgerald warns that the high-profile concurrent court cases of Tsarnaev, Bulger, and athlete Aaron Hernandez, who is charged with an execution-style murder, could desensitize a mesmerized public—and encourage a sort of idealized toughness or heroism around these suspects.
Fitzgerald wrote in an article published Wednesday: “We’ve heard from those directly impacted, heartwrenching stories of lives forever changed by injuries or deaths of loved ones, and we try to be empathetic, but, truth be told, after a while it’s numbing, almost too much to absorb. Revulsion gives way to obsession, and infamy grabs our attention as if it possessed a star power of its own.”
He quotes Minister Don Muhammad’s words concerning Bulger’s fame: “To some young people, a prison record is a badge of honor, a sign of manhood. I know, most of us can’t relate to that, but you don’t have to be around young people very long to realize how true it is.
“And now we have them looking at this man Bulger, and all the attention he’s getting. Don’t you see, that’s the danger of elevating a man like him into the type of public figure someone might mistakenly admire.”