If I Were Tasked With Saving The Life of the Boston Bomber


I have tried a murder trial for the defense. It lasted almost two weeks. I will never try another, and I would not have defended Dzholkhar Tsarnaev under any circumstances, for a variety of reasons.

But, what if I had set aside more than a year of my professional career for one case, and what if my sole responsibility was to save “The Boston Bomber’s” life? Before I took the job, there would still be certain mandatory conditions. He would have to:

1. Commit to me that even with all the martyr talk, he really, really wanted to stay alive;

2. He would have to answer yes that he believed himself to be a good person. If he refused, that would be a “deal breaker”.

3. He would have to agree to spend most waking hours for a year with me in the quest to obtain the equivalent of a four year liberal arts bachelor’s degree.

4. He would have to accept the challenge that I was going to seek out with him, and share, the body of the wisdom of mankind, and he would have to agree to consider it, along with what he had been taught about Islam and America, in considering some views that are contrary to his.

5. I would seek out at least 100 of the most brilliant people in their fields and expose my client to each one for a full day. That would take up nearly 1/3 of the available time.

6.After consulting with 1/2 dozen of the most brilliant scholars and scientists in the world, I would require him to read what I wanted him to read,  and view what I wanted him to view for another 1/3 of the time. I, of course, would read and watch the same things.

7. The rest of the time, we would discuss and debate. Perhaps he would talk me into becoming a terrorist. I doubt it.

8. Of course, in preparing him for trial, I would make sure that he knew if he wanted to die, he should act exactly as his lawyers allowed him to act during the actual trial, but, with luck, he would have been along on my plans for him to have evolved from “the bestial” world he came from to her own personal “age of enlightenment.

9. I would have much to learn, of course, about his country of origin, the process that got him radicalized, and the things he was taught that caused him to hate us so much.

 10. I would give him NO propaganda. The whole approach would be to give him the soundest, sanest, most rational information available, about the natural history of our planet, the creation and evolution of life, about anthropology, biology, astronomy, philosophy and mathematics. I certainly would not try to convert him to Christianity or any religion, but to find his own path to rationality.
11. He would read the biographies of the greatest people in reported history.

12. He would learn why Western Culture flourished and his peoples’ culture languished.

13. Then I would have him testify. If he had been misguided in his acts, I think he would have a chance, but apologizing, explaining the dark and ignorance world he came from, and promising to live a life committed to rationality and compassion.

14. He would explain to the jury what he had learned. He would explain what he had been taught before and what he was thinking when he made and planted that bomb.

15. My guess is he is the vicious killer we believe him to be and not the misguided young man the defense portrayed him. So, he would fail.

16. But, if he had become enlightened, He would express profound sorrow, and he would apologize and state that he wishes nothing more than to be able to undo the wrongs he committed.

17. He would reject radical Islam, and all superstition based religion, and he would promise that he would follow any path available to him to make amends.

18. He would speak directly to the people he once identified with and tell them they are on the wrong path. He would tell them why.

19. In light of this conversion, they, of course, would be honor bound to kill him on sight.

20. He would pledge to be a pacifist for life, and, knowing that he was headed to a Super Max prison, he would say that even if he were permitted to walk free, he would never again be a Moslem, and certainly not a radical. He would ask permission to continue to grow and to learn, into a full human being.

21. The jury would have to decide first whether to believe him, and then to determine if there had been redemption.

22. Then they would decide his fate, and I think they would spare him.

23. It was his lack of remorse and redemption that did him in. Now, let’s give him a week to appeal, decide the week following that, and end this thing the week after that. He and his team decided how to how to approach this case. They should not have the next 20 years to try to undo the results.

24. I think if the jury believed that he had studied and learned how wrong his actions were and regretted them deeply, they would be more inclined to spare him. But, not one asked me, and he would have rejected my guidance if they had.


This post was written by Burton Hunter


  • pat hunter says:

    very interesting and creative ideas-

    The only thing I would have added would be a chance for him to visit with a good psychoanalyst as well, but that’s just me

  • Hello Pat; great idea. A psychoanalyst, with a PhD in History, Philosophy, Politics, and Astronomy. Who says it’s the age of the specialist. The well rounded, fully educated person, has the edge. 🙂

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