Rob and I have been talking, online and off, about the decision to try Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in federal versus state court, a question that is gaining traction. Prosecutors could get a murder conviction in state court — and Dzhokhar presumably will face state murder charges for the killing of the MIT cop. But the feds are intent on getting a terrorism conviction under a post-9/11 law.
Glenn Greenwald asks why murdering innocents is terrorism in Boston, but not in Sandy Hook. Gwynne Dyer notes that the law under which Tzhokhar is charged gives a new definition to “weapons of mass destruction,” which, it turns out, Saddam Hussein had after all: bombs and pressure cookers.
Dyer goes on to question the logic of the distinction between terrorism and murder:
What’s really going on here is just another manifestation of what Americans themselves call “American exceptionalism.” In this context, it means that killing Americans, especially for political reasons, is a special crime that calls for special terms and special punishment. It’s the same logic that has been used to justify imprisoning people indefinitely without trial and even torturing them in the endless “war on terror.”
Rob thinks this jurisdictional issue could be critical in the case appeals. Maybe so, but while the civil courts vs. military tribunal issue has generated some buzz, I doubt the state vs. federal thing will capture the public’s attention. Dzhokhar isn’t exactly a sympathetic figure either. We’ll see.