Last month, the same jury found Tsarnaev guilty of planting bombs that killed three people and maimed and injured hundreds more, as well as the killing of an MIT police officer. The jury then heard evidence about the appropriate punishment for his crimes and deliberated for three days before unanimously concluding that death is the appropriate sentence of Tsarnaev’s placement of a bomb that killed an 8-year-old boy, Martin Richard, and Lingzi Lu, a graduate student from China. By all accounts, the jury took its job seriously and soberly and carefully considered Tsarnaev’s childhood and cultural background, as well as evidence that his older brother was the mastermind of the bombings, before deciding that the death penalty was appropriate.
Tsarnaev’s crimes were terrible and unforgivable. They were terrorism in the truest sense of the word, because they were not targeted at any specific person. Their only purpose was to kill and hurt people indiscriminately, harm the reputation of a venerable American institution, and cause the general populace to worry that they might be risking their lives whenever they attend or participate in a mass sporting event or rally. There is simply no justification for the commission of such crimes. Whatever his upbringing, anyone who can rationalize placing a bomb in a crowd and killing wholly innocent people is a bad man who deserves to be punished.
Nevertheless, I’m opposed to the death penalty for Tsarnaev, as I am in other cases. I don’t think we need to show terrorists overseas how tough we are, and in any case I doubt that they pay much attention to the workings of the American justice system. I also don’t think killing Tsarnaev is going to dissuade others from committing acts of domestic terrorism, just as the execution of Timothy McVey for the Oklahoma City bombing didn’t stop the Tsarnaev brothers from proceeding with their crimes. A death sentence simply ensures that we will spend huge amounts of time and money on appeals and will be reminded of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his awful crimes every once in a while, when his case is reargued and reargued again in court.
I’d rather we just throw this evil man into prison and leave him to rot, alone and forgotten, for the rest of his miserable and misbegotten life.