By Joe Young
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev by his own admission is guilty of the Boston Bombings that took the lives of three people and injured hundreds more. These facts are not in doubt.
Tsarnaev is a murderer and should never be allowed back into society. Whether he is executed or not, this will be true. But Tsarnaev is a criminal not a martyr. If USG executes him, they (we?) run the risk of making him the latter. The benefit of calling him a criminal is to demean his actions as selfish and worthless. No one holds vigils for or makes martyr posters of Al Capone or any lesser thug.
Is life in prison getting off easy? The Supermax facility in Florence, Colorado has a cell waiting for Tsarnaev. Residents include the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, the Shoe Bomber, Richard Reid, and the first World Trade Center Bomber, Ramzi Yousef to name a few. None will leave the facility alive. The inmates spend all but one hour a day in a concrete cell by themselves. The former warden, Robert Hood, claims a sentence in the supermax is “much worse than death.”
This discussion highlights how America is exceptional in a lot of ways, including our use of the death penalty. My claim here is not about this. I wouldn’t be writing a similar piece if this were Ted Bundy or John Wayne Gacy or other psycho killers. To be clear, I am not suggesting a general opposition to this form of punishment. Aside from one’s support or opposition to capital punishment, it is the wrong policy in this case.
After 9/11, Americans rightly or wrongly saw terrorism as an existential threat. Research suggests that the threat of terrorism might be overblown, as it might be ineffective especially to developed democracies like ours. Terrorism, like crime, has been a part of humanity since we created complex societies (probably before), and it will continue. Let’s not treat the people who perpetrate these acts as more than they are—criminals.