Friday saw a federal jury sentence Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the culprits behind the horrific bombing of the 2013 Boston marathon, to death by lethal injection. When I saw the headline pop up on my news feed, all I could think to myself was-
What’s the point?
Readers, no one- even the defendant- disputes Tsarnaev’s guilt. Tsarnaev’s cowardly attack murdered three innocent people and wounded over a quarter thousand others. That Dzhokhar and his brother, Tamerlan (killed in a standoff with police shortly after the bombing) are monsters is likewise not in question.
But with all of that in mind- the guilt, the heinous nature of the act- what’s a lethal injection going to solve?
Now this isn’t the first time I’ve talked about the death penalty on this blog, but I think there’s hardly a better example of how fundamentally useless the thing is. And don’t for a minute think this is some bleeding-heart outcry against killing- I’ve got no problem with that, and I actually think we don’t resort to violence nearly as fast or often as we should.
I. Just. Don’t. Get. It.
What are we trying to acomplish here?
It’s Not Justice
Tsarnaev murdered three people and mutilated hundreds of others. If we take a balance-the-scales approach to justice (which I don’t- but that’s another discussion), then we’d have to find some way of killing and reviving him three times and subject him to years of physical and emotional torture.
We can’t do that.
Morally or practically.
You can pick whichever you want, but it’s just not going to happen. If you want to you make justice your sticking point, then fantastic. And I don’t say that with an iota of sarcasm, I really and truly to laud that. But again, this isn’t justice.
It’s Not Sparing the Survivors
Of course, it might not be so much about justice for the dead as justice for the living. After all, what of the wounded and the families of the deceased? Should they have to tolerate the existence of the sickening scumbag who killed their loved ones?
Well, with the death sentence, they’re going to have to do just that.
Contrary to popular image, we do not take the convict straight from the courthouse to the gallows. Tsarnaev will, with the death penalty in place, have years (if not decades) to appeal his sentence. In fact, the parents of the youngest victim (eight year old Martin Richard) actually lobbied against the death sentence for this exact reason. In spite of prosecutor Loretta Lynch’s argument that the death penalty will offer “closure” to these families, these families will most likely be forced to relive this agonizing loss over and over and over in the lengthy legal process. And just so we’re clear-
It’s Not Sparing Us Either
Before anyone asks why they, the honest taxpayer, should have to pay for the housing, clothing, and feeding of a repulsive murderer, let’s get the numbers straight. Study after study has consistently demonstrated that the overall cost of an execution is far more expensive than a life sentence, with some estimates holding that the difference exceeds one million dollars. If it’s just a matter of cost-effectiveness, then your wallet will be spared more by keeping Tsarnaev alive.
It’s Not Enough
Now granted, there are those out there who are probably well aware of all of these points and still in favor of the penalty. “It’s close enough!” some might protest. And hey, they might have a point.
I’ll concede that as a possibility. Sure, we can’t dispense perfect justice, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do all that we can. But with that in mind- is this it?
Is this the extent of our creativity in restoring the natural order? Or if you’re looking for blood (and plenty of folks are), is this the most exquisite torture you can think of? And no- I’m not an advocate of torture, but for the folks out there looking to exact some kind of selfish suffering, even you gotta recognize that an execution is a mercy compared to living with yourself. To have to face the consequences of your actions, day after day, year after year, decade after decade- without ceasing.
An Execution Doesn’t Kill Someone
And that’s just the facts.
You can pump Tsarnaev full of whatever poison you want, execute the guy, whatever, and there’ll be some idiots out there who’ll turn him into a martyr. Folks will find some way of making him live on, even if it’s only in his repellent legacy. No, the only person truly able to kill Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. If he recants or repents or regrets- and I’m not saying that he will, but if– then he’ll have provided a more effective blow to his own corrupted ideology than any that could be offered by the public. And that’s part of the reason to stop this stupid practice of execution- not just so that the innocent can have a chance to be vindicated, but so that the guilty can have a chance to declare “****, it wasn’t worth it!”
Again, there’s a chance this might not happen.
Maybe Tsarnaev would’ve declared the cowardice of his actions. Maybe he wouldn’t have.
We’ll probably never get a chance to find out. And again, I have to ask-
So what’s the *****ing point?