One of the most commonly cited lines from The Diary of Anne Frank says that, despite all that the teenager had gone through in two years of hiding from the Nazis in Amsterdam, she still believed that people are really good at heart. Later scholarship on both the Diary and its author has raised doubts that that line truly reflected Anne Frank’s deepest feelings about human nature–and this before, of course, she and her family were betrayed and forced from their hiding place into concentration camps. Only her father Otto survived.
For Catholic nun Helen Prejean, however, a version of Anne Frank’s widely quoted line might sum up her obsession with fighting the death penalty everywhere. She was the last defense witness for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (DT) as his lawyers tried to convince the jury in Boston that the convicted Boston Marathon murderer deserved life in prison rather than the death penalty.
The good sister met with DT five times in prison in recent weeks and concluded that the young man feels genuine remorse for what he did. Curious, to be sure, that he showed no emotion—and not the tiniest indication of remorse–as the horrors of the 2013 Marathon were detailed by witness after witness. But the good sister is convinced that she, and she alone, knows what is really in DT’s heart and mind.
As has been widely reported, the family of the eight-year-old boy, Martin Richard, who was killed and whose sister lost a leg has asked that DT receive life imprisonment. But there is a considerable difference between the Richard family’s understandable desire to avoid painful appeals and the good sister’s basic indifference toward these and other victims and their families.
It is surely not an exaggeration to believe that, were Hitler and/or Stalin on trial for their respective mass murders, the good sister would find some measure of goodness and even remorse in their souls. In my mind, however, Helen Prejean deserves our contempt for using her fame from the movie “Dead Man Walking” to interfere with DT’s trial.
By the way, if I were on the DT jury, I would vote to execute him.