Distancing from death penalty

On April 8, in Boston, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was found guilty on all 30 counts in federal court due to his participation in the Boston Marathon bombing. The bombing, which took place on April 15, 2013, during the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring more than 240 others, was the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The next stage of his court proceedings is his sentencing. The jury will decide whether to give Tsarnaev the death penalty or a lesser penalty, such as life in prison without chance for parole. Despite Massachusetts’ ban on capital punishment, in place since 1984, Tsarnaev can still be sentenced to death because he was tried in federal court. Federal prosecutors will be arguing that if any offense deserves the death penalty, it will be this one. Meanwhile, the defense will argue that Dzhokhar was only 19 years old, with no criminal record and was coerced into involvement by his older brother, Tamerlan, who was killed by FBI officers four days after the bombing.

The forthcoming debate of the sentencing inspired our own debate: Would we sentence Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death?

We attempted to find a reason why we, as a country, would choose to execute Tsarnaev. We thought of retribution, a deterrence of future crimes or otherwise making an example out of him.

As far as retribution goes, some editors were not entirely sure that the death penalty would be a worse penalty for the now-21-year-old Tsarnaev than life in prison. With a life sentence, he will be isolated most, if not all, of time for the rest of his life, and he will possibly foster hostility amongst the other inmates due to the nature of his crimes and designation as a terrorist.

We also thought that making an example out of Tsarnaev or using his death as a deterrent to future perpetrators of terrorist attacks against American citizens is a bit naïve. The U.S. government and its military have killed thousands of people in its “War on Terror,” yet these attacks continue to occur. If we are to believe the Tsarnaev brothers’ reasoning for the attack, it was U.S. intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan that led to their own attack at the marathon. There is also the possibility that the death penalty could make Tsarnaev a martyr for his cause, which could inspire other individuals to commit attacks against the United States and its people.

We also considered what reasons the United States would have in not giving Tsarnaev the death penalty.

The first reason we discussed was cost. Contrary to popular belief, the cost of imprisoning someone for life is cheaper than keeping an inmate on death row, mostly because a new appeals court for the sentencing must be established.

The second reason was that we believed it wrong to stoop to Tsarnaev’s level. We, the United States, are not in the best company regarding countries that allow the death penalty. In addition to the United States, the only countries that still use the death penalty to the extent the United States have are Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Yemen and China.

Finally, the U.S. has had a lot of difficulty procuring the method deemed most acceptable to kill a human being: lethal injection. Partly as a result of this difficulty, Utah recently made it legal, again, to be put to death via firing squad.

We, the University News Editorial Board say no to the death penalty because we advocate a more humane approach to the criminal justice system and to our dealings abroad.