Death Penalty for the Boston Bomber?

For two years the Boston metro area has been processing the trauma of the Boston Marathon bombing. Four innocent lives were taken: Martin Richard age 8, Lingzi Lu age 23, Krystle Campbell age 29 died in the bombing. MIT police officer Sean Collier age 27 was murdered in cold blood. All had long lives ahead of them leaving behind family and friends. Over 200 others were injured, many losing arms, legs, sight, hearing. In truth the entire psyche of the region has been traumatized.

The perpetrators were two brothers Tamerlan age 26 who was killed during a manhunt by police and Dzhokhar Tsarmaev now age 21. This week a jury convicted Dzhokhar of 30 counts including conspiracy and deadly use of a weapon of mass destruction. Seventeen of the counts are punishable by death.

Now the decision of whether to put Tsarmaev to death is in the hands of the jury. The jury is asked to weigh what is a just and proportionate response to the monstrous act of murdering and maiming so many. Whatever decision they come to, the jury of our fellow citizens deserves our respect and gratitude.

Of course the debate as to what is a just and proportionate response is being debated throughout the region. Which is the most fitting punishment death or life imprisonment? What do you think?

Some argue that the death penalty is the most fitting price for such a monstrous act and a deterrent to others. Some believe that the death penalty is morally wrong and never acceptable. Others suggest that the Tsarnaev brothers were seeking martyrdom (in a perverted understanding of Islam) and that a death sentence would give the younger brother what he wants.

It is an open question whether the death penalty or life imprisonment will bring any degree of justice and closure to those maimed or who lost their loved one. Each person will seek their own path towards a measure of healing and acceptance and deserve our support and prayers.

While I understand the reasoning of those who call for the death penalty I can’t agree. On a deeply emotional and spiritual level I think the death penalty further inflicts an emotional and spiritual toll upon the psyche of a community. In short there is no such thing as a righteous killing.

Surely Dzhokhar Tsarnaev must and will be held accountable for the evil he and his brother committed. I don’t buy the defense strategy that the younger brother was a follower and not the leader. Each of us are accountable for our actions.

I believe that a life in prison is an appropriate punishment. With the loss of freedom this young man will be held accountable for this rest of his life. Will this bring a measure of healing and closure to those victimized? I hope so but I don’t know.

One lesson we have learned over these past two years is that there is a deep reservoir of compassion in the greater Boston area. Drawing upon this compassion has brought out the very best in us and provided an inspiring witness to our nation and the world. My hope and prayer is that we continue to draw from this deep reservoir in the months and years to come.

7 thoughts on “Death Penalty for the Boston Bomber?

  1. Ami Stockellburg

    Kent, you provoke many questions as I read this blog but my mind keeps coming back to one truth. We worship, pray to and trust in GOD, Jehovah, the biggest most powerful one and only God. These brothers cared nothing about who was in their way- in fact, the more the better to get their point across. They did not value life! They deserve death and I do not believe it will be a forgiving one. If indeed he goes to prison for the rest of his life, I don’t think it will be a forgiving one either. Having prior knowledge, he will most likely have to be in seclusion in order that he doesn’t get attacked or worse, and there will come attempts. This all said, I have not mentioned the “typical” things to be said such as costs for either or etc. Morally, I do not believe he deserves to live, but ultimatley “Vengence is mine” sayeth the Lord.

    1. Thanks Ami for your heartfelt and thoughtful comments. This time stirs up such painful memories for the wider community and especially for those who have lost loved ones and those who continue to suffer physically and emotionally. My prayer is that healing come to each according to their need.

      1. I have come to believe that the death penalty is unjust, though I used to be a strong supporter. Jesus called us to be different, to forgive, not to respond in the typical way of “an eye for an eye,” etc. What punishment is it anyway to die, which is a quick act and allows you to die believing that the penalizer is no better than yourself??
        I believe that the punishment is worse, where one must live out their life considering the wrong that they have done to others, and allowing God to work on that person’s soul. It is no matter that he is Muslim, since there is only one God, call Him what you will, no God agrees with what this person did.

  2. The appropriate application of the death penalty is one of the most difficult issues within our justice system. Over the years my position on the death penalty has changed. The possibility, no matter how remote, for executing an innocent person I believe outweighs any benefit from it’s application.

    In this particular case, there is clearly no doubt of the involvement of this young man in this horrific act.

    From my perspective, the more troubling aspect is those that would argue this callous disregard for life shows a contempt for the Christian philosophy and use that as justification to kill him. Tsarmaev embraced a different religious perspective, acted on those tenets, and that is reason enough to kill him

    That some would argue for his, or any, execution based on an opposing religious basis is contradictory at best, and equally appalling at its worst.

    Life in prison is an infinitely more fitting punishment. If we understand anything about his religious faith, martydom is a reward. Why would we facilitate his reward?

    And if those that hold to the Christian faith are as commited to their philosophy, than forgiveness by sparing his life is more fitting.

    Had Tsarmaev been shot dead during the ensuing manhunt, I would have found comfort in that end to his useless, mis-lead, foolish, idiotic following of a 13th century philosophy.

    If we execute him, we are acting in much the same way. Seeking vengence and satifying our anger and sorrow through similar barbarity.

    Someone may have to check on Kent, he may be in shock that I agreed with him on this. (Albeit perhaps from a different perspective)

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