Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s Death Penalty Debate Is Not About Liberal Media

Sorry, Howie Carr.

The debate over Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and the death penalty is a complex one; it is an issue that requires introspection, reflection on the meaning of justice, and…partisan name calling?

It’s been amusing to watch Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr do his best impression of a commenter as he rages at the “media morons” who oppose sentencing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death.

Carr’s first column on the subject cherry-picked quotes from mainstream news sources to make them look sympathetic to Tsarnaev. Here, for instance, is how he depicted the New York Times’s coverage:

Thank God we have The New York Times to explain the Joker’s downfall:

“He was buffeted by forces beyond his control.”

Imagine that. Nobody else has ever been buffeted by forces beyond their control, right?

In fact, what he was quoting was the Times’s summary of the defense lawyers’ arguments. Here’s the full paragraph:

The defense team’s goal is to keep Mr. Tsarnaev off death row. Defense lawyers will stress what they believe to be mitigating circumstances: that he was 19 at the time, had no criminal record and was being manipulated by his older brother, Tamerlan, 26. They will also delve into his personal and family history to show how he was buffeted by forces beyond his control.

It takes a generous reading to interpret that as the reporter’s opinion, especially as it comes just after a paragraph about the prosecution strategy, which argues that Tsarnaev “acted in a heinous, cruel and depraved manner and betrayed the United States.”

That’s not to say there aren’t those who argue Tsarnaev should be given a sentence of life in prison. Those “media morons” include columnists in Carr’s own publication, the Boston Herald. They also include some family members of Tsarnaev’s victims. Last week, the parents of eight-year-old victim Martin Richard came out in favor of a life sentence.

In a follow-up column, here is what Carr had to say about the motivations of the so-called “Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Fan Club”:

It’s because the Joker is a poster boy for so many of their protected classes.

He is a “refugee,” a Muslim, a welfare leech, a drug dealer, an on-the-record Obama supporter, a resident of Cambridge (in a Sect. 8 apartment naturally) and a terrorist.

Carr makes an exception for the Richard family, whom he portrays as mere tools of the death penalty opponents, rather than liberal hacks who support keeping a terrorist alive because he received welfare or something. How grateful they must be…

As the conversation happens in the background of the sentencing phase of the trial, commentary like Carr’s is mostly atypical. It’d be nice, though, if even Carr contended with the arguments put forward by the “morons” in his own newspaper rather than just calling them names.