Justice for all

Author: Barrett Rainey

The Boston bombing-identifying-chase-capture portion of our latest national horror is over. With our global informational reach to instantly deliver sights and sounds of such a tragedy, nearly all of us were swept along as it played out. Over those five days. Even back here in our little burg-in-the-Oregon-woods. Emotion and information overload.

Now come two steps certain to follow such events: the slow gathering of facts; the lemming-like rush of some politicians to make damned fools of themselves in pursuit of self-service. Chalk Lindsey Graham up as the first little animal over the cliff.

Some background on the junior Senator from South Carolina. Law degree in hand, he joined the U.S. Air Force in 1982. Stayed right there in South Carolina, he did. But on his bio sheet, he calls himself a “Desert Shield and Desert Storm veteran.” Fact is, he never left South Carolina. Just happened to be in the service and living at home during those campaigns. Like most of the rest of us. In the Senate, his best public statements have been made as he moves his lips – channeling John McCain.

Without waiting for more of the aforementioned facts to be discovered, and within only a few hours of capture of the surviving suspect, Graham simply dumped the American court system and our Constitution by demanding the young fella be labeled an “enemy combatant” and tried militarily.

In previous Senate committee hearings, Graham has notoriously said Americans accused of terror-related crimes should be denied due process and when they say “I want a lawyer, you say ‘Shut up! You don’t get a lawyer’.” It’s in the record.

Two other facts Graham turned his back on. First, suspect Dzhokhr Tsarnaev is a naturalized American citizen. He has the rights you and I do. Second, there’s never been a court decision about whether the Constitution permits the government to hold American citizens arrested on American soil as “enemy combatants.” That issue, itself, is a whole different can of legal worms. Unless you’re Lindsey Graham. But you have to remember. He’s up for re-election in 2014.

Of course, McCain, Kelly Ayotte, Chuck Grassley, Saxby Chambliss and Peter King – among others – jumped right off the same lemming-killing verbal cliff. All within hours of capture and with no more facts than we got in our collective living rooms. Babbling about “no Miranda right,” “need to know about future attacks,” “no right for Tsarnaev to remain silent” and other uninformed political garbage.

All of this posturing and judgement rushing – all of it and more – is regrettable. And forgettable. Wiser minds – not running for re-election – have decided Tsarnaev will be tried as a civilian. In a civilian court.

There are many more facts to be discovered. Also issues of citizenship and immigration. Constitutional law is a huge factor. Questions of whether the brothers acted alone or with others – whether there are international connections. Government agencies here and abroad are part of the active investigation. City and state authorities have multiple roles to play.

Like a bad rash, Graham and the others are only symptoms of much larger diseases in this country. Division. Alienation. Prejudice. Graham is South Carolina’s problem. The other three are the nation’s.

There can be no excuses offered in defense of what the brothers apparently did. None. There can be no leniency proffered. The cowardly, vicious and murderous act demands punishment. Not the absolute retribution Graham and the others seem to want. Punishment. Justice. Not retribution.

As events of the Boston attack unfolded, something great slowly emerged in this country. Hearing more – seeing more – knowing more – the rest of us slowly became brothers and sisters with Bostonians. Like them, we were sickened, horrified, confused, angry. We felt emotions. Many of us wanted to help – to say “whatever you need, ask.” Known or not, there were bonds developed.

In the aftermath, justice must be shared and dealt with in the same way. Emotions have their time and place. We should not forget. We won’t forget. But, going forward, the issue must be the even-handed, national administration of “justice for all.” Just as law enforcement provided exemplary service to find and capture, so must the legal system be allowed to do its job. Without interference. Without prejudice. Without emotion.

Those who continue to offer uninformed, irrational, unsought, politically self-serving advice in this matter – like Graham and his cohorts – should proceed directly to the cliff.

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