No one would want the job of defending Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in court. But unfortunately for a select few public defenders, specifically Miriam Conrad, that job has been assigned to them.
A public defender is there to defend a client who cannot afford legal representation. All too often, their clients are charged with heinous crimes that are indefensible. The circumstances of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev make that one of those cases. The "Boston Bomber" is a reprehensible figure, one that few people will want to see have his day in court.
Miriam Conrad is one of the nation's most esteemed public defenders. A graduate of Harvard Law School, she has been a public defender for over twenty years. She has defended the "shoe bomber" Richard Reid, and most recently Rezwan Ferdaus, a Muslim-American sentenced to 17 years for plotting to attack the Pentagon.
It is safe to say that Miriam Conrad and another member of her team, William Fick, are capable of handling the unsavory job of presenting a defense for Tsarnaev. It will be contentious and certainly one that few would want to be responsible for. But when you're a public defender, you don't get to handpick who you represent.
The "Boston Bomber" case is unique. It will be a much higher profile case than any of the others Conrad and her team have handled. Most people want to see Tsarnaev punished in the most severe way permissible. Truthfully, the idea that he gets to have a trial is revolting. Why can't we just skip the trial and go straight to punishment? But this is not how the American legal system works.
In 2006, Conrad spoke about her work. She said, "From a personal standpoint I would say that there are very few clients I have had I didn't like ... If you scratch the surface, many have had difficult lives, and as their lawyer, I sort of see them whole- not just as a person charged with a crime."
These are strong words and certainly ones that will be tested in this upcoming case. How could someone see Tsarnaev as a person and not a monster? He is a terrorist who intended to kill as many victims as he could during the Boston Marathon. It would be hard to see past this when trying to mount a legal defense.
But given this is not Conrad's first go at this, she will find a way to present Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's case to a jury. But, try as her team will, there is little chance that public opinion will be on Tsarnaev's side. The chance of him receiving a moderate sentence is practically an impossibility.
The public will demand he pays severely for his crime. All the sob stories in the world will not save him from the harshest punishment. In this particular case, being a public defender would be a horrible position to be in. Representing the "Boston Bomber" in a court of law would be akin to representing a 9/11 terrorist.