Are we going to reduce ourselves to the level of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev by executing him?

If anyone deserves the death penalty, it’s Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving brother of the Chechen-American pair who planted the bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.  Three dead. Hundreds injured, some with limbs ripped out by shrapnel.  A shoot-out which produced another death and injury. Possible plans to inflict more damage on the innocent.

This guy deserves to die.

But we don’t deserve to kill him.

We’re better than that. We’re a civilized society.  We have incarcerated and will try Mr. Tsarnaev because he acted violently and took the lives of others. But by taking his life, even after a proper trial, we are resorting to his level, playing his game, using his rules.  When we take his life, he wins. His values ascend.  If we kill the killer, we become the killer.

There are many arguments against the death penalty:

  • Juries make too many mistakes, and you can’t take back an execution.
  • No studies show that the death penalty serves as a deterrent to crime.
  • To ensure fair treatment, the cost of execution is now far higher than the cost to maintain the prisoner for life.
  • There is an inherent bias against minorities and the poor in the implementation of death penalty sentences in the United States.
  • No other industrialized nation retains the death penalty.

But as far I’m concerned, all these arguments fall to the wayside when compared to the simple fact that by not executing the killer, we assert our humanity and our belief in the sanctity of human life.

Our need to deny the ethos of the killer becomes poignantly clear in the case of the mass murderer or terrorist. Their crimes are heinous and it’s impossible to imagine anything redeeming about their lives.  They certainly do not deserve to live.

Yes, we want to kill Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, but let’s instead lock him up until the day he dies and show that we know a better way.

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One comment on “Are we going to reduce ourselves to the level of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev by executing him?
  1. John says:

    You write: “But by taking his life, even after a proper trial, we are resorting to his level, playing his game, using his rules.” You are wrong.

    I will state I do not advocate putting Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death. He should not die. He should suffer, and death would be an end to suffering. He should be kept alive for many decades, isolated in prison, only to glimpse the sunlight, to dream of feeling the breath of the wind on his face, but to never again walk the Earth in freedom. Author Stephen Donaldson once wrote, how do you hurt someone who has lost everything? You give them back something that is broken. Any freedom Dzhokhar Tsarnaev experiences for the remainder of his life should be “broken”; it will hurt him the most as the years slowly grind him into dust.

    Again, you write if we seek to put this man to death “we are resorting to his level, playing his game, using his rules.” Again, you could not be more wrong.

    Those Tsarnaev killed received no trial. The received no legal defense. They were killed, and offered no appeal to a higher authority. Those killed and injured were innocent, they did not choose to participate in jihad. They were randomly chosen, picked at will by the wills of others who had allowed their minds to be corrupted.

    The killers did not represent a society, or government, and had no lawful authority to take life or initiate jihad or war. The killers had no legal training, no training in the operations of civil societies, or governments. They knew not of legal checks and balances, or of legal restraints and authority.

    Sir, to argue that if our nation decides to put this man to death is to play by the same rules as these terrorist did, to argue to put this man to death means we are lowered to the level as these monsters, is to ignore, willfully ignore, all I have stated above.

    The will of a society, based upon laws and not rage, or emotion, is justice. The attacks of terrorist can never be said to be just.

    You are wrong.

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