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Death Penalty For Tsarnaev Hurts Boston

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Death Penalty For Tsarnaev Hurts Boston


Why was 21-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev sentenced to die in a state so generally opposed to capital punishment? A recent Boston Globe poll found that only 19 percent of Massachusetts residents wanted the Boston Marathon bomber put to death. The state hasn’t seen an execution since 1947.

That sentence happened because national politics took the matter out of local hands. The federal government forced a death penalty trial. Only those open to a death sentence were allowed to serve on the jury. That made the jury members unrepresentative of the local population and the outcome preordained.

The sentence has eroded a sense of unity — the notion that a community can stand up to an awful crime without compromising its moral objection to capital punishment. And it goes against national trends.

Americans’ support for the death penalty has sharply declined. Not long ago, about 80 percent of the American public favored it. A poll last year found 52 percent preferring life behind bars over execution.

Even some conservative states, such as Nebraska, are witnessing serious moves to end the death penalty. Opposition takes several forms: That capital punishment offends the pro-life ethic — as forcefully stated by Pope Francis. That executing someone who was wrongly convicted is an unspeakable horror. That the drawn-out and expensive appeals process that typically follows a death sentence serves no one, including the victims.

A discomfiting oddity of capital punishment is that whether and how it is applied depends on the place. The flamboyant cruelties of the Islamic State’s beheadings and the antiseptic lethal injections in death penalty states seem variations of the same thing.

In 2008, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled the electric chair unconstitutional. The current debate includes the shortage of drugs for lethal injections. These are discussions one shouldn’t want to have.

Many Americans, Bostonians included, remain adamant that criminals like Tsarnaev need to be eliminated, without much concern for the means. “I don’t think there’s any punishment too great for him,” Boston mayor Martin Walsh said after the sentencing.

And some who generally oppose the death penalty say they would make an exception in the case of terrorism. They describe the Tsarnaev brothers’ rampage as more an act of war than a multiple murder.

We must question, though, whether by defining a heinous crime as a politically inspired act, we are further inflating already grandiose misfits into historic figures. Fears that executing Tsarnaev will elevate the former college student into martyr status are not unfounded.

That his twisted admirers might respond with violence should not be a concern in meting out justice. Let that be said. But how much more diminished Tsarnaev would be if he were simply stored behind bars with the serial rapists and the holdup men.

The gruesome pomp that would surround a Tsarnaev execution could further move the marathon bombing focus from the crime and its victims to the criminal. That helps explain why some of the affected families have opposed a death sentence.

Bill and Denise Richard, whose 8-year-old son was murdered and whose 7-year-old daughter lost a leg in the bombing, have been among them. “For us,” they wrote, “the story of Marathon Monday 2013 should not be defined by the actions or beliefs of the defendant, but by the resiliency of the human spirit and the rallying cries of this great city.”

In sum, they don’t want Tsarnaev made more important than he is.

The marathon’s finish line, once a place to leave flowers, now evokes more complicated emotions. But the society that suffered the carnage did not have a say in the sentencing. That is one consolation for those Bostonians pained by the outcome.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com. 

Handout image shown to jurors on March 18, 2015 in Boston, courtesy of the U.S. Department of Justice, shows an evidence photo of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev at his home in Cambridge

Froma Harrop

Froma Harrop’s nationally syndicated column appears in over 150 newspapers. Media Matters ranks her column 20th nationally in total readership and 14th in large newspaper concentration. Harrop has been a guest on PBS, MSNBC, Fox News and the Daily Show with Jon Stewart and is a frequent voice on NPR and talk radio stations in every time zone as well.

A Loeb Award finalist for economic commentary in 2004 and again in 2011, Harrop was also a Scripps Howard Award finalist for commentary in 2010. She has been honored by the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and the New England Associated Press News Executives Association has given her five awards.

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  1. FireBaron May 19, 2015

    OK, to start, unlike many of my fellow Liberals, I believe that the Death Penalty is warranted in some crimes. And this one is one of them.
    Having said that, I do not think the death penalty for Tsarnaev is the correct move, and here is why:
    1. The average for a Federal Death Sentence from sentencing to execution is 15 years. For the next 15 years, the families of the victims will have to live through appeal after appeal as Tsarnaev’s lawyers try to dissect every second of the trial to find anything that can overturn the sentence. Had one juror dissented, a Life Without Parole would have been handed down, and Tsarnaev would have been remanded to the Federal Prison System to live out his life in a Supermax – 23 hours a day in his cell, one hour a day out.
    2. As a Death Penalty awardee, Islamist groups can point to him as a martyr for “the cause”, provided killing innocent civilians is part of their cause. However, if he had been “awarded” LWoP, he, like Zacharias Moussaui, would be just another criminal, forgotten by the outside world.

  2. Harjap Singh Aujla May 19, 2015

    These kids are highly indoctrinated to kill those who don’t believe in their ideology. Such people don’t deserve to live.

    1. noel1234 May 19, 2015

      I agree with you except are we not rewarding these animals with death? They supposedly get those virgins. I would find a place that has chain gangs and put him on one. To me a miserable life not a nice prison would make me happy. For all other violations death is okay just not for Muslims.

      1. Harjap Singh Aujla May 19, 2015

        I don’t care if they get those 72 beauties promised by their prophet. At least they would not be committing crimes on this earth.

        1. noel1234 May 19, 2015

          You are right but we are rewarding them by killing them,life term in prison is better.

          1. Harjap Singh Aujla May 19, 2015

            My country is surrounded by such elements, we know how venomous they are. Nip the evil in the bud. Please don’t make me respond to your comments. We agree to disagree.

          2. noel1234 May 20, 2015

            You are right. Thank G-D i have an ocean for somewhat of protection. Please be healthy and live a long and fulfilled life.

          3. Richard Holmes May 20, 2015

            Let the hogs eat them. Justice, death and disposal all in one stroke. A pig’s got to eat too.

      2. Michael Ross May 20, 2015

        No offense, but do you really want a guy who deliberately destroyed infrastructure out there being forced to build it? I wouldn’t feel safe driving on any road that I knew a bunch of psychotic murderers had done the work on.

        He wants his virgins? Pfft. Joke’s on him.

        Also, do you not see the irony of arguing against the cruelty of the death penalty by saying that life in prison would be more cruel?

  3. Dominick Vila May 19, 2015

    I don’t support the death penalty. Period. I believe life in prison, including hard labor, is more effective – and humane – than a death penalty, both as a deterrent to crime or, in this case, terrorism, than putting criminals or terrorists out of their misery.
    The death penalty is an issue to deserves to be debated. There is no closure in an eye for an eye, just a perpetuation of violence that is inconsistent with the most basic tenets of religion, or a sense of humanity. The last thing we should do is emulate the practices employed in the Islamic world, at a time when most of the civilized world is moving away from this barbaric practice.
    Perhaps the most potent argument in this case is that for many Muslims the death penalty means martyrdom, which means that instead of punishing this criminal, we are rewarding him, and turning him into a martyr or hero to thousands of people who think like he does.

    1. mike May 19, 2015

      Where in the hell in this country is there a prison with hard labor?? You and your ilk will be the first in fed. court claiming hard labor is wrong and unfair.
      You want to compare our judicial system to Islamic justice? Pathetic!!
      “perpetuation of violence” another crock of sh$t from you, Dom. No, put him to death and then go kill the other thousand who think he is a hero. To think that if we keep them alive for the rest of their lives on the taxpayer dime and the others will change their attitude and show tolerance is delusional. ISIS said last week Islam is not a religion of Peace but a Religion of War. People that think like this should be destroyed.

      1. anothertoothpick May 19, 2015

        You sound a lot like this guy.

        1. mike May 19, 2015

          Thanks for the chuckle. I see you are as dumb as a door knob.
          You remind me of Neville Chamberlain.

      2. Dominick Vila May 19, 2015

        Our judicial system has absolutely nothing even remotely similar to the Islamic justice system, but the mentality of people like you does.

        1. mike May 19, 2015

          Keep trying!!

          Typical trying to change what I said, “You want to compare our judicial system to Islamic justice”? I never said they were.

          You think the death penalty is barbaric and life in prison is a detriment to terror, more pathetic thinking on your part.

          Sounds more like the mentality of people like you than me.
          Keep trying old boy,

    2. Richard Holmes May 20, 2015

      Kill them and bury them in hog guts. Tell them to leave this country or they can be assured they will be treated likewise. Watch them leave in droves.

  4. itsfun May 19, 2015

    The death penalty has always been a controversial issue and always will be,

  5. LadyImpactOhio May 19, 2015

    You can’t put even one juror on a case where the death penalty is an option if they don’t believe in it. The author is an idiot.

    1. johninPCFL May 19, 2015

      You apparently missed the point of the first two paragraphs. The first point (in paragraph 2) is that in order to serve on a jury that may end up calling for the death penalty, you MUST be OK with that punishment. The second point (from paragraph 1) was that 19% of the population of Boston wanted Tsarnaev to die as punishment.

      That means that the jury was chosen from the 19% who thought it was OK to kill him. How is that a “jury of his peers”? Seems like a few decades of Constitutional challenges are in the future.

  6. Bosda May 19, 2015

    Death Penalty For Tsarnaev Hurts Boston

    Give until it hurts.

  7. 2ThinkN_Do2 May 19, 2015

    Too bad the National Trend is trending in the wrong direction . . . .

    1. Daniel Jones May 19, 2015

      Says who? I’m sorry, you like your killing of the “unrighteous” in the face of the victims’ families among many others not wanting this idiot to be elevated beyond his picayune station?

      Play video games and leave the rest of us alone!

  8. Daniel Jones May 19, 2015

    If we stopped tossing people in prison for stupid reasons or to facilitate racism–yeah, you read that right–we’d have all the space needed to leave lifers in the jug and far, far away from the promised virgins.

    1. Richard Holmes May 20, 2015

      Stupid reasons, racism? Murderers, rapists is what is being dealt with here.
      No taking care of them for life when the innocent people he killed have been forced to give up theirs. Death.. Feed him to the hogs alive. It will give him a taste of the anguish he forced on those people and the hogs will dispose of this waste.
      Plus; there will be no promised virgins.
      Oh, by the way; your statement is as stupid as you are.

  9. pjm19606 May 19, 2015

    The death penalty serves NO purpose. Where is the restitution on the part of the offender? Put him, and all murderers on a chain gang for life, rebuilding our roads and bridges for free. The US is truly backward in this regard.

  10. Michael Ross May 20, 2015

    “But how much more diminished Tsarnaev would be if he were simply stored behind bars with the serial rapists and the holdup men.”

    For a good long time, that’s exactly where he is going to be. It took four years to execute Timothy McVeigh, a man who tried to use the “necessity defense” when put on trial for blowing up a building with a daycare center.

    And in between his conviction and his execution, McVeigh stayed in prison in a special bombers’ wing with other bombers, like a part of some perverted living museum display.

    That’s what Tsarnaev is going to get: Solitary confinement in a Supermax prison, where his only contact with the outside world will entail frequent reminders, not just of the fact that he is a pitiful excuse for a human being, but that the horrible nature of his crimes does not even make him all that unique.

    Maybe Tsarnaev will be housed in the same row as the underwear bomber and be forced to listen to that moron’s rantings for the next four years. THAT would be a punishment befitting the crime.

    1. Louis Allen May 20, 2015

      In typical leftist/liberal/socialist/”progressive” fashion, you waver on your BS and vacillate, and refuse to reach and express a conclusion and/or opinion.
      So, spell it out, are you FOR or AGAINST sending this POS to meet Allah “in person” and thereby allowing him to enjoy the sexual favors of 11,000 (male!) virgins ??

      1. Michael Ross May 21, 2015

        In typical Tea-bagger/authoritarian/fascist/fundamentalist fashion, you refuse to see the world in anything but black and white and lash out at everyone and everything that does not conform to your incredibly narrow belief system even before you understand what precisely it is that you are lashing out at.

        So let me state it clearly for your miserable low-IQ waste of flesh self: I am FOR this miserable POS getting sent to meet his maker where he won’t be wasting food, water and oxygen that could otherwise go to someone deserving of it.

        All I’m advocating for is getting the timing right. Put him through the full bureaucracy treatment so that A) nobody will remember who he is when it’s finally time to put him to death, and B) he’ll be so tired of it all that he won’t even care what’s waiting for him on the other side.

        1. Louis Allen May 21, 2015

          So you FINALLY were able (with some coaxing from a superior mind) to bring yourself to saying: ” I am FOR this miserable POS getting sent to meet his maker where he
          won’t be wasting food, water and oxygen that could otherwise go to
          someone deserving of it.”
          There, you said it.
          Now go back to Momma’s basement room.

  11. Richard Holmes May 20, 2015

    Let’s take a count.
    1: Tsarnaev bombed and killed innocent people
    2: Destruction of property
    3: Willful endangerment
    4: Assault with a deadly weapon with intent to cause bodily harm and death
    5: Premeditated murder
    Innocent people:
    1: Peacefully watching a marathon.
    Death is the only sentencing needed.
    Death is all he deserves.
    Why house a demented murderer for life.
    He will never be anything but a demented murderer.

  12. Louis Allen May 20, 2015

    Every day a moron decides to explain to the world how he/she “reasons”.
    Today it was Froma Harrop’s turn.
    Tomorrow it may be Cynthia Tucker’s turn.
    Day after tomorrow it may be Lenore’s turn ….
    Who knows?
    Keep tuned.


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