Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Boston Bomber - Death Penalty or Not

Photo by Ninian Reid  / flickr
The Boston Bomber trial  is winding down.  This 21 year old,  along with his brother, was responsible for the deaths of 3 citizens, a police officer and wounding 264 other people during the Boston Marathon two years ago.

There is no doubt of the guilt of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The pain that he has caused is inestimable.

And so the jury must decide one of two things: either this man will face the death penalty or he will spend the rest of his life in a maximum prison in solitary confinement 23 hours a day.  The government which rested its case last month has argued for the jury to sentence him to death.

I have  pretty good idea how I would feel if I had been wounded, a member of my family had been wounded or struck down. I can understand the rage of all those families touched by this horror. Runners and healthy citizens will run no more. Their lives and their families' lives have been torn up by the roots. One of those killed was an eight -year -old boy who stood by the finish line excited and happy to be at the great race.

Should this man with the strange name be sent to his death for what he has done or sentenced to life in prison? If he doesn't deserve death--who does? I throw that question out to you--and I'd like to see your response. If you were sitting on that jury how would you vote?

Even though many countries and some states had done away with the death penalty--still jurists must decide on this twisted man's fate. The question that arises in this perennial debate is: does the state have the right to take any person's life? The other side would say there are some crimes against humanity for which only the death penalty is appropriate.

Sister Helen Prejean, a Roman Catholic nun he is a strong opponent of the death penalty, visited Dzhokhar five times. Sister Prejean took the witness stand in this man's defense. Though she never used the word remorse--she said that the charged man was sorry for what he had done and realized the enormity of the pain he had caused. She recommended prison.

Certainly he deserves the death penalty if anyone does. But does the state have the right to take any person's life? Yes or No. If we vote to send him to jail for life do we send the wrong signal? You can do terribly horrendous acts--and still save your life? On the other hand if we decide to send this man to prison do we not send a signal to the terrorists network that  this country does things different than terrorists states. Would it give at least some of those that hate us pause as they see how we have treated one of their own--even with all his guilt?

No one has suffered more from this bombing than Bill and Denise Richard's family. They lost their eight-year-old son that day. Their seven- year- old daughter lost a leg and both parents were injured. They have asked that the death penalty be taken off the table for Mr. Tsarnaev. They wrote a letter saying the they "understand...the heinousness and the brutality of the crimes committed...but the continued pursuit of that punishment could bring years of appeals and prolong reliving the most painful day of our lives." One could certainly not call the Richard's bleeding hearts--but we could call them people with hearts that bleed continually.

I vacillate almost daily with what I would do if I were on that jury. We live in a world where many of our choices are very complicated. And for people of faith capital punishment gets even more muddled. We know what the 10 Commandments say--but are there exceptions? The same book that says : "Thou shalt not kill" tells of blood running through the streets by people that were God's chosen.

Who knows? How do you feel--let me hear from you?

--Roger Lovette /

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