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.