TAMERLAN Tsarnaev allegedly committed the most terrible of acts, the killing and maiming of innocent people. So, when cemeteries in Cambridge, Mass., refused to take his body for burial, it was easy to understand the dark mutterings about the Boston Marathon bombing suspect not deserving a proper burial, about how he should be cremated despite his family's wishes and his religion's traditions, or his corpse cast into the sea.

Easy to understand, but wrong.

Ultimately, Tsarnaev's secret burial yesterday wasn't so much about him or what he deserved as it was about our society, which generally tries to do the decent thing.

Decency means treating the dead with basic civility and respect, no matter who the person was or what acts he may have committed.

Tsarnaev's mother reportedly wanted his remains returned to Russia; an uncle in the United States, who had been working with the funeral home that had his body, found an undisclosed spot reportedly outside Cambridge, where Tsarnaev lived before he was killed in a shootout with police. In any case, the family wanted him to be buried in accordance with Muslim belief.

But private cemeteries had refused to accept the body, and the city of Cambridge said that it didn't want the gravesite in public burial grounds for fear of protests; it also would have been difficult to keep angry Bostonians from vandalizing the grave.

Tsarnaev's family might not have gotten exactly what they wished for, but a dead person - even one who is suspected of evil - must receive appropriate funeral arrangements without undue public outcry.

Texas, a state that is far too willing to execute criminals, at least understands its responsibilities toward those it has killed: Unclaimed bodies of criminals are buried, with a service, in a well-tended cemetery on prison grounds.

Funeral director Peter Stefan, who agreed to handle arrangements for Tsarnaev's remains, told the Associated Press that he had received abusive phone calls for this act of decency. "Can I pick and choose? No," he said. "Can I separate the sins from the sinner? No. We are burying a dead body. That is what we do."


And that is what we as a society are supposed to do - bury or cremate the dead with reasonable consideration of their families' wishes.

The public isn't being asked to honor Tsarnaev, but it should honor its own standards of righteous behavior.

Today's editorial first appeared in the Los Angeles Times.