With so many glaring headlines multiple times a day, given the Russian war of aggression against the sovereign nation of Ukraine, a news story I wanted to weigh in on got pushed aside. But this Monday morning with a stiff cup of java before me I need to address a moral wrong.
The Supreme Court earlier this month reinstated the death sentence for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The ruling was a 6-3 vote and in so deciding the justices agreed with the Biden administration’s arguments that a federal appeals court was wrong to throw out the sentence of death a jury had imposed on Tsarnaev. The court battles result from the bombing that killed three people near the finish line of the marathon in 2013.
Tsarnaev was 19 years old when he and his brother, Tamerlan, who was 26 at the time of the bombing. Days later Tamerlan died during an explosive firefight with police, and Dzhokhar was arrested.
It should not surprise anyone that conservative Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the majority of like-minded members of the Court in proceeding with the death penalty. I continually find it amusing how the same justices who write decisions or dissents against abortion or related matters on the bench are the first in line to place someone on death row.
Meanwhile, one of the continuing voices in opposition to the death penalty is Justice Stephen Breyer. I have written before that “I believe Breyer will be in the same fine historical company as Congressman John Quincy Adams, who after being president, sat in Congress and continually hammered away at slavery.”
Adams has a legacy of working for the end of slavery, and Breyer will be known for his pushing to alert the nation to the dangers of the death penalty.
In the Tsarnaev ruling, Breyer asserted again his grave concerns about the death penalty. “I have written elsewhere about the problems inherent in a system that allows for the imposition of the death penalty … This case provides just one more example of some of those problems.”
The fact we find some criminal acts to be so barbaric that some wish to turn to death as a way to make a statement about how society feels is a natural one. It is a base reaction. But laws are made to curtail base reactions of people. While I can understand how upset people can be over the Boston Marathon bombing, as an example, I can not understand those who wish to translate feelings of anger to an execution.
As a nation, we must not allow ourselves to be taken over by the darker forces that are a part of the human makeup. We must always strive to be better than those in society who have failed so miserably to live up to a certain code of conduct that we all know to be the best way to live.
Placing someone in prison for life is the only reasonable way to proceed for those who commit the ultimate crime in our society. Then allow for God to be the final judge on the matter. The government should not be in the business of taking a life.
I understand that there was a very prolonged court process years ago where a jury listened to arguments for and against sentencing Tsarnaev to death. They concluded that he should be executed. I grasp the fact emotions were high, and anguish over the bombing ran deep.
But how does the barbaric execution of Tsarnaev remedy what occurred at the marathon, or not place the government and the people that it represents, on the same level as the bomber?
It might be comforting to assume that some legal balm can be applied to the citizenry to excuse or pardon the government from killing a person through the death penalty. But there is a firm moral line that can not be crossed. Trying to hurdle over such a line with legal procedures and artful wording does not change the bottom line.
Murder is always wrong. Even when termed the death penalty.
And so it goes.