The New York Times’ recent coverage of the Dzhokhar Tsarneav trial went a little off the rails the week before last. Zachary Lown submitted a letter to the editor in response which did not make it to print but is provided here:
The federal defenders representing Marathon Bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev deserve our utmost praise, not opprobrium. They are not defending his right to commit the horrific crimes of which he is accused, they are defending a system based on constitutional rule and a fair process. Zealous advocacy is not only justified by the right to a defense; having fierce legal adversaries on either side is believed to be the best way to get to the truth. Yet the Time’s otherwise stellar legal reporting almost paints Tsarnaev’s lawyers as villains (Marathon Bombing Suspect Waits in Isolation, April 14). They are described as filing “repeated demands” for prosecutor’s files and obsessing over “legal minutiae.” But access to information is vital and court battles are often waged on procedural grounds. In other words, they’re doing their job. Public defenders accept paltry wages to do the crucial work of standing between an ordinary citizen and the state. The extreme nature of this case shouldn’t blind us to this fact: we need them to uphold our ideals and make the system work.