With the sentencing phase underway, federal prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for the Boston Marathon bomber. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, now 21, was convicted on all 30 counts, including conspiracy and deadly use of a weapon of mass destruction in the 2013 attacks, which killed three people and injured 260, including 17 who lost limbs.
Prosecutor Nadine Pellegrini opened by showing a photo of Tsarnaev in his holding cell three months after the bombing, flipping off a surveillance camera, The New York Times reported.
“This is Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, unconcerned, unrepentant and unchanged,” Ms. Pellegrini said. “Without remorse, he remains untouched by the grief and the loss he caused, and he remains the unrepentant killer.”
If the federal prosecutors are concerned that Tsarnaev is unrepentant, why not keep him in prison for the rest of his days and see if he if he doesn’t become repentant? It’s not as if his repentance, now or later or never, will do anything to ease the pain of the victims and their families. Just as executing him will not do anything to ease the pain of the victims and their families.
As far as Tsarnaev (then 19) holding up his middle finger to a security camera, is his “bravado” really an argument for execution? Perhaps it might reflect fear? Isn’t it all irrelevant compared to his crimes?
Giving Tsarnaev the death penalty also raises the concern that other terrorists, homegrown or otherwise, will view him as a martyr. Sticking him in prison for the rest of his life takes away that terrorist-favored narrative.
A compelling argument against seeking execution comes from the parents of the youngest bombing victim, 8-year-old Martin Richard. (After his death, a heart-rending photo of him holding a school poster that says, “No more hurting people. Peace.” was circulated widely.)
Bill and Denise Richard, urged prosecutors to put Tsarnaev away for life instead of executing him because the appeals process would prolong the pain for years, and keep the terrorist in the public eye.
“We understand all too well the heinousness and brutality of the crimes committed. We were there. We lived it. The defendant murdered our 8-year-old son, maimed our 7-year-old daughter, and stole part of our soul,” the parents wrote in an opinion piece in the Boston Globe.
“As long as the defendant is in the spotlight, we have no choice but to live a story told on his terms, not ours,” the Richards wrote. “The minute the defendant fades from our newspapers and TV screens is the minute we begin the process of rebuilding our lives and our family.”
Let the rebuilding begin.