No, not for the reason you think…
Go ahead; get it out of your system. Call me a Muslim-loving liberal who cares more about criminals than “law-abiding citizens”, yada, yada. No, that’s not why I don’t think we should kill Tsarnaev. It’s because I’d like him to really suffer.
One of the reasons that the death penalty is a difficult subject is the fact that there can be so many extenuating circumstances to which it is applied. The problem is, there are no nuances available within the framework of the death penalty. We can’t kill someone a little bit. It’s all or nothing, and if we get it wrong, well…
No, there isn’t much doubt that Tsarnaev killed all those innocent people. This is one of those cases where the death penalty is pretty much a no-brainer. But I’ve never aligned myself with simple-minded no-brainer types who love seeing someone die. It’s just not me…
So, let’s actually use our brains here and decide what it is we’re trying to accomplish. First, we want Tsarnaev off the street. That’s pretty much a done deal. Second, we want to tell the victims’ families that actions such as his don’t go unpunished. Also, pretty much done at this point. All that’s remaining is how we actually carry out the punishment. Death, or life in prison with no parole.
We’ve all heard the arguments for and against the death penalty. I tend to be ambivalent about it, since all cases are different. But I will concede that this particular case, because of its brutality, is certainly a candidate for it. It’s really hard to see any redeeming qualities in this kid.
But Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is 21 years old and, even in custody, should live to at least 75. That means, if allowed to live, he will spend the next 54 years in a supermax prison, mostly in solitary confinement to keep him from the dangers he’d face from other inmates. 54 years living in a 6×8 cell, with no hope for tomorrow, no reason to live, no one to love, no one to love him, nothing to gain, learn or contribute.
He will awaken each morning, then eat, piss, shit, maybe read, then eat again in the same room in which he pisses and shits, then sleep. Every day. That’s it. For life.
If I were faced with the choice of that life or a quick death, I’d be begging for the death penalty.
Now, if you want to use the shop-worn argument about cost, it’s pretty settled science that it costs millions in appeals and likely 15-20 years in prison anyway before we get around to executing him. The cost of housing him on death row for those 20 years is about $2,300,000, not including another $2,000,000 or so in legal and appellate fees. Some studies indicate that a death penalty case can cost $24,000,000.
To keep him in general population for 54 years is about $25,000 per year or about $1,350,000, or considerably less than what it would cost to kill him. It’s cheaper to keep him than kill him.
So, no, I’m not advocating that we spare Dzhokhar Tsarnaev the death penalty out of any misplaced compassion. I’d just like him to suffer a little longer, and die bitter and angry about how badly his life went.