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Leonardo Angiulo: This Is Our City, You Play By Our Rules

Monday, April 22, 2013

 

I think most people watching the events of the past week wanted to do more than sit on their couch. Every one of us wanted to see these guys run down and everyone with a heart would have done it themselves if they had to. We as a community knew what needed to be done: these guys needed to be taken off the street. We are fortunate to live in the greatest country in the world, with a law enforcement community that knows what to do and how to do it well.

We must remember, however, that we are the greatest country in the world because our police enforce one of the greatest system of laws this world has ever seen. Its greatness includes the open and public trial of criminal defendants. At these trials we learn what a person has done wrong, how the government knows this is the person that did it, and if convicted what the punishment will be.

The importance of applying trial rights to suspected wrongdoers, no matter what kind of evil they have allegedly perpetrated, is rooted in our nation's history and essential to our nation's identity going forward. John Adams helped author many integral documents including the Declaration of Independence, the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights, as well as the Federal Constitution and knew the place of trials better than anyone. When American colonialists were massacred by occupying British soldiers future President John Adams acted as defense attorney at the resulting trial. While there, he didn't take a dive like a compromised boxer, he gave a closing argument so good that no one would believe it if it was in a movie. That doesn't make him any less of a patriot. By some standards it makes him an even greater man, a person who lives the standards he applies to others.

No matter how offensive the crime, no matter how deep the hurt, no matter what kind of humanity is missing from the eyes of the defendant, trials must go on. Nuremberg let the world know that when war ends, crimes against humanity will be accounted for. The method by which the accounting happened was open, public and allowed both sides of the case to be presented. Death was the punishment for many of these criminals. It, however, came only after reflection by our civilization on why that verdict was necessary. Everyone knew who was responsible for what, based on evidence, and a connection was made between wrong doing and consequences.

Because that is the hallmark of our system of justice: the rule of law rather than people responding out of pure passion blind to the consequences of their actions. That this should be proven by a prosecution in Boston is especially appropriate given the terms of Article 30 of our own Massachusetts Constitution, which states that the government shall conduct itself in such a manner that it “may be a government of laws and not men.”

Providing due process isn't just a central tenet of our state and federal Constitutions. It lives in the heart of ordered systems of liberty. From the Magna Carta in 1215, to the French Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen in 1789, and the German Constitution of 1949, oppressed people have consistently demanded equal access to justice upon their assumption to power. 

Terrorists win when their actions cause us to change the way we live. We win when we put Dzokhar Tsarnev on trial, convict him, and he faces his maker at the chosen hour. Because he came here, he made us stop what we were doing and he is going to face the consequences on our terms. And our terms are the rules of law and justice. 

Leonardo Angiulo is an Attorney with the firm of Glickman, Sugarman, Kneeland & Gribouski in Worcester handling legal matters across the Commonwealth. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or through the firm's website at www.gskandglaw.com.

 

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