On July 10, Dzokhar Tsarnaev, 19, pleaded not guilty to 30 counts related to the bombings at the Boston marathon in April, reports USA Today. These include using a weapon of mass destruction (killing three and wounding more than 260) and slaying Sean Collier, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology security officer.
The trial date has not been set, but once it begins it is expected to last three to four months with 80-100 witnesses, according to prosecutors. A status conference was set for Sept. 23.
While many of the people attending the initial proceedings were victims and their families, there were also people there supporting Tsarnaev, whether staunchly believing in his innocence or not yet convinced of his guilt.
One woman said, "He's not going to get a fair trial. This city has already convicted him."
If this statement is true, then how will the legal system identify unbiased jurors? Any man deserves justice and a fair trial. Potential jurors must be willing to put aside the emotions and examine the evidence.
As the trial progresses over the next few months, it is also important to remember both justice — innocent until proven guilty — and mercy. Seventeen of the counts against Tsarnaev could bring the death penalty. If Tsarnaev is proven guilty, should we consider capital punishment?
The crimes he is accused of are horrible and should be justly punished. But God also calls us to "love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you" (Mt 5:44). He promises: "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord" (Rom 12:19b). So perhaps this should be an opportunity for mercy.
Here are some resources from OSV Newsweekly to help ponder the question of capital punishment:
Jennifer Rey is the web editor of Our Sunday Visitor Publishing.