I can almost always tell when my younger sister is lying. I’d like to say it’s because we have sisterly ESP, or because I have mastered the art of lie detection; the reason is neither of those, though. I can tell when she is lying because when she lies, her eyes widen and she smirks faintly. It’s difficult to look someone in the eye and knowingly lie to them, and in our lives we don’t often have to do this.

“Tsarnaev defense team walks off. Does not comment on death sentence.”
“Tsarnaev defense team walks off. Does not comment on death sentence.”

Today while scrolling through Twitter I came across this image from Mike Hayes, a senior reporter at Buzzfeed News. The image shows the defense team of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a man who was convicted of planting a pressure cooker bomb at the Boston Marathon last year.

It made me wonder about what those lawyers thought during the trial. Did they believe that Tsarnaev was guilty? How could they not? And, if they did believe he was guilty… how could they still fight for him to not receive the death sentence?

I am currently taking law at school, and a few weeks ago we had mock trials. We were in groups of five, and everyone in the group had a role: there was someone to give the opening statement, a cross examiner, a direct examiner, a claimant, and someone to give the closing statement. The cases we studied were actual Canadian human rights court cases.

In my case, I was the claimant. “I” had been an full-time employee of a retail company, but then when I joined the Seventh Day Adventist church I had to change my working hours. My employer moved me down to part time, although I should have been able to work full time. I filed for discrimination based on creed.

I did not find it difficult to play the part of this claimant, because I truly believed that in the case the claimant had been discriminated against. The other side had a harder job; they had to say that I wasn’t discriminated against, which may not have been the reaction of the group members upon reading the case study.

It is much easier to fight for something, and someone, when you truly believe in what or who you are fighting for. This leads me back to my initial questions. I am curious as to the perspectives of Tsarnaev’s lawyers.

If they did think he was guilty, it must have been difficult to attempt to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he did not deserve the life sentence (and especially after hearing testimonies from survivors and victims of the bombing). The team apparently argued that Tsarnaev was under the influence of his older brother, the real mastermind behind the plot; yet I still maintain that his actions are not justifiable.

There is, of course, the trouble that in Tsarnaev’s mind his actions probably are justified. That’s a big problem in this world: everyone thinks they’re doing the right thing. You can have two sides fighting a war, and looking from the outside you can see the “right” side and the “wrong side” – yet each side genuinely believes they are doing what is right.

Did each side of the lawyers in this trial believe that what they were doing was right? Or, do lawyers only attempt to justify their actions by considering laws and not human ethics? I can only wonder.