We don’t need to execute Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. He poses no continuing threat to our public safety. Protecting the common good does not require us to kill him. I am convinced, as are many others, that the principal actor in the Boston Marathon bombing was his brother Tamerlan--and Tamerlan is already dead.
There are only three reasons to kill Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and none of them are consistent with the Catholic moral understanding of the just use of the death penalty in an age and nation where the possibility of highly secure incarceration is a reality. These reasons are revenge, retaliation, and retribution--and none of those is a good enough reason to kill someone who is believed by many to have been his brother’s dupe throughout the crime, not some sort of criminal mastermind in his own right.
I mourn the deceased victims of the attack and stand with the injured who have undergone so much. None of my shame for my country’s decision today is a minimizing of their real pain and suffering. But killing Tsarnaev will not bring back the dead nor heal the wounded. Sufficient time in prison might, instead, make him experience real remorse and shame for his own part in this terrible crime.
I call on my Catholic brothers and sisters, my Christian brothers and sisters, and all those who believe that the death penalty has outlived its time to stand with me in objecting to this shameful decision. If we truly believe that human life is sacred there is no justification for executing criminals who do not pose a continuing threat to public safety, whom we can safely incarcerate instead.
(Cross-posted at And Sometimes Tea.)