In the midst of the continued sorrow from last week’s massacre in Charleston, another act of terror was once again back in the spotlight. On Wednesday, the formal sentencing of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the two responsible for the Boston Marathon bombing in April 2013, occurred. His sentence? Death.
As with most sentences of death which are handed down, vocal opposition to the procedure exists. Outside the court yesterday, protesters of the death penalty held up signs which read:
Death Penalty Promotes Killing
Capital Punishment Dehumanizes Us All
Mercy Not Killing And Torture
Inside, the differences were stark. Victims shared statements of how the terror impacted and utterly destroyed their lives – physically, emotionally, and mentally. Tsarnaev himself also gave a statement (described as insincere) which included:
“If there is any lingering doubt … I did it, along with my brother…”
“Now, I am sorry for the lives that I’ve taken, for the suffering that I’ve caused you, for the damage that I’ve done. Irreparable damage.”
My cynical mind does not believe him and his statements of supposed regret, strewn throughout many religious references, pleas to his god, and even calls for blessings on the victims. It’s difficult to believe that he even possesses any morsel of real regret, the same Rolling Stone cover model who three months after ending three innocent lives and viciously wounding many others, flipped off the camera while in a cell. But honestly, regret doesn’t even matter. Apologies don’t matter. The victims may choose or choose not to forgive, but that is their choice alone. No, the thing about life is that decisions can and do completely change the course of your future. Regardless of possible future regret or even an apology, consequences remain. In the case of those who purposefully take the life of another, the fate they should be given is death. I don’t believe that dehumanizes us. I believe the only human response to the gross injustice of willfully taking another’s life is that your life should be taken. Murder is an ultimate act of evil, and we should not cower against the responsibility of addressing that.
But as we know, too often the focus is on the discomfort the convicted criminal would experience at the moment of execution, more than the terrifying, painful, premature end their victim(s) went through. People discuss “botched executions” as if they’re surprised that a person’s final moments may be difficult. They say “the execution was a disaster”, list the pain the convicted may have been in, and go on to conclude executions are tainted with racial bias. More than anything, I think the foundation of this dislike is the uneasy realization of the ultimate end a decision to murder someone may lead. People decry capital punishment because it bothers them. Guess what? It should bother us. We shouldn’t seek to get rid of it because of that discomfort, though. We should keep it.
Take for instance the medical community’s discomfort at lethal injection, in an article discussing the death penalty’s decline:
Indeed, the medical establishment is increasingly uncomfortable with lethal injection. At its annual meeting in March, the American Pharmacists Assn. declared that “the practice of providing lethal-injection drugs is contrary to the role of pharmacists as healthcare providers,” thus joining associations of doctors and of anesthesiologists in deeming cooperation with executions contrary to the Hippocratic Oath (“first do no harm”).
Just one problem with this explanation is that it comes from a community which, increasingly, supports assisted suicide by way of medical contribution. That is coherently chosen harm, but somehow a growing number of medical professionals approve of it. This is because it’s easier to grant “relief” than to have a hand in delivering punishment. But, as uncomfortable as it is, we should not hesitate in doing so.
As declared on Twitter last week, after the racial terrorism in Charleston:
This is what our reaction to both Charleston’s killer and Tsarnaev should be. We must set aside whether the death penalty is a deterrent to those thinking about committing crime. When someone takes an innocent life, it should spur us into the uncomfortable, yet necessary, conclusion that the death penalty is required.