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Between the Lines: Death Penalty Test Case

Accused bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev isn’t special.

Comments (2)
Wednesday, February 12, 2014

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a visceral reaction to the idea of capital punishment. The notion of a government—any government—executing its citizens makes me feel weak. It makes me feel the extent of my own vulnerability and potential powerlessness against the authority of the state.

A wariness about government is healthy in my view, and while I might have preferred, for example, to see more effort made in Washington in the last few years to stimulate the economy, I am sympathetic to people who argue that the government is already too involved in the economy—that government is the problem, not the solution. Similarly, while I cheer the idea of making health care accessible and affordable, I don’t take it for granted that Barack Obama or anyone in the U.S. Senate has a legitimate plan or even an honest desire to do it.

A lot of Americans live by a code that basically says, I love my country but I distrust my government. In regard to my own skeptical view, I’ve always found myself in fairly good company. Except about the death penalty. On that subject, I often find myself in the minority—particularly now, with the decision by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to seek the death penalty for accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

As a boy, my concept of state-authorized executions was formed largely by watching movies and reading novels. No doubt, my early view of the death penalty was shaped by the fact that, very often, the fictional character facing an electric chair or firing squad was unjustly accused or, at the very least, mostly sympathetic. Later on in life, however, I began to see that, whatever one’s view of capital punishment, not many death row inmates will ever appear as righteous. But I also began to see the fallibility of government.

In the case of the younger Tsarnaev, whose brother and alleged accomplice was killed during the manhunt for the bombers last April, it is impossible to see the accused in a sympathetic light. There is also little chance that the government has the wrong man.

The depravity of last year’s bombing surely justifies our collective thirst for vengence. But killing Tsarnaev will harm us more than it will help. Holder’s politically expedient decision to seek the death penalty will raise the cost of prosecution by millions and drag out the final adjudication of the case for years.

Rather than allowing the rarely-used 1988 law establishing a federal death penalty to fade into history where it belongs, Holder reinvigorated the arguments that helped create it in the first place, playing to passions that only interfere with the search for truth and justice and, worse, treating Tsarnaev as something special.•

Comments (2)
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A person has to be found guilty by a jury of his peers so it's inaccurate to say it's a fear of giving the gov't full power. We have the power to convict or not convict.

I think the various arguments are very telling...

Who am I to make that decision? (Answer: If you believe in God, he is not here to punish evil doers... it is our responsibility. If you don't believe in God, that logic applies even more strongly.)

It's too expensive. (Answer: Let's fix that and make it cheaper. It should not cost more than life imprisonment.)

Life imprisonment is stronger punishment than giving them the easy way out in death. (Answer: There is no moral difference between killing someone and locking them in a room until they die. Both are "playing God" if you will.)

What if we are wrong? (Answer: In this and other cases we DO know for sure.)

So what do we conclude from these varying arguments? What is the common theme for these reasons/excuses? An unwillingness to police our own society. (The "who am I to.." mentality.)

We have an agreement as a society to not rape and kill each other. When someone commits a horrific act, they need to go in the ground. They need to go in the ground if for no other reason than to make 100% sure they won't harm anyone else.

They do not deserve to live and enjoy all of the comforts of modern prisons. I'll give you an example. Tex Watson is serving life in prison with no parole for brutally murdering multiple people under the direction of Charles Manson. He has done the following since being in prison:

- Got married

- Fathered 4 children

- Wrote a book

- Runs a website

- Got divorced

- Graduated college

He did all this with our tax money while his victims rotted in the ground. How evolved that he got to do this with all the free time he had by not working or paying taxes. Too bad he's so old because he could have looked forward to gender reassignment being covered in the future.

This my friends is NOT progress. Not having the intestinal fortitude to execute an animal who rapes and murders a 14 yr old girl is also NOT progress. And letting a dreamy terrorist sit in a cell reading fan mail instead of arranging a meeting with his maker is NOT PROGRESS.

Posted by Ben on 2.12.14 at 13:15

In the Bible...an eye for an eye. I do believe in God and I also believe if this person is found guilty, he should be put to death. I don't believe this less than a human being should be kept alive with our tax dollars when so many of OUR people have suffered in so many ways!!!

Posted by Sandra Demers on 2.12.14 at 18:39
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