Sergeant Sean Murphy, the Massachusetts State Police tactical photographer who released bloody photographers of accused mass murderer Dzokhar Tsarnaev to Boston Magazine, says he did so to counter the glorification of Tsarnaev on the cover of Rolling Stone.
First of all, Rolling Stone should be boycotted by anyone who cares even a bit about America.
Tsarnaev is, of course, a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing, which killed and maimed dozens on April 15 of this year.
When the magazine published a handsome photograph of Tsarnaev, with blown dry hair and a come-hither expression, looking like a rock star, the editors defined themselves as reprehensible profiteers who have no respect for the victims of the Boston massacre and no regard for our way of life—which, thank God, gives them every right to publish whatever they want. They abused that right, and no one should buy another copy of their magazine, unless the editor-in-chief resigns.
So, along comes Sergeant Sean Murphy. He figured he would set things right by distributing ugly photos of Tsarnaev, including one with a red laser dot on the center on his forehead. Trouble is, distributing police photographs to the press without permission from higher-ups at the Massachusetts State Police is prohibited. So Murphy was suspended on Friday, pending the results of a hearing about his behavior.
Here’s what should happen next: Murphy should be fired. Not suspended. Not disciplined. Fired. Gone.
He distributed photographs to the press which were part of an ongoing investigation. The photographs which were expressly meant to depict Tsarnaev in a dangerous and grotesque way and could make it that much harder to find an impartial jury to hear the charges against him. Maybe Rolling Stone will hire him, but even that magazine might want someone who follows the rules of their organization.
See, there’s a bigger issue here than whether you hate Dzokhar Tsarnaev or are absolutely certain that he is guilty-as-charged. And the bigger issue is that in America you are supposed to be considered innocent until proven guilty and not have the state police carry on a campaign to discredit you and make sure the public considers you a monster, before you stand trial.
Because it may be Dzokhar Tsarnaev today and you tomorrow.
Maybe the IRS decides you should be prosecuted for tax evasion and some hotshot, rogue agent who thinks you’re guilty as hell releases lots of photos of you shopping for a Rolex watch—which maybe you could afford, anyhow, but which might just get jurors heads in the place where they can lock you away for a good, long time.
On balance—comparing Dzokhar Tsarnaev (if guilty) and Sergeant Sean Murphy—
the bigger threat to America is Murphy. Because you can’t blow up a marathon and do much other than harden the steel in the spine of this country that resists those who seek to destroy it. But you can work from inside the system to hijack people’s understandable anger and turn it in on itself in a way that jeopardizes America’s freedoms. And when you do that you destroy the trust Americans have in their institutions—like law enforcement.
Friedrich Nietzsche once wrote, “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.”
Well, the abyss has gazed into Sergeant Sean Murphy. And he has come up lacking. And he should not be policing anyone or anything, other than himself, in the future.
Keith Ablow, MD is a psychiatrist, and was host of the nationally-syndicated "Dr. Keith Ablow Show." He is a former member of the Fox News Medical A Team.