Djokhar Tsarnaev one of the two perpetrators of the Boston marathon bombers was condemned to death on 15th May in the Federal Court of Massachusetts. We bring this case to the attention of readers of this blog as a case where the sentence of death comes closest to justification. We have presented cases of the innocent being executed, of those where a pitiable destiny in involved, but this is a case where the choice for abolition is most severely tested. It is a case which must be considered. The condemned culprit is of Chechen origin and is 21 years old. His crime caused three deaths and 264 wounded.
The death penalty has been abolished in the State of Massachusetts where the last execution took place in 1947, but death sentences can still be handed down by a Federal Court. The sentence required the unanimous decision of the jury of seven women and five men. Jury selection was particularly careful to choose only jurors not opposed in principle to the death penalty. Of the thirty accusations against Tsarnaev, seventeen were subject to the death penalty. We place before the reader a consideration of the plea of the prosecutor: “The only sentence providing justice in this case is the death penalty”
The defence was based on the plea that the defendant acted only on the incentive of his brother, Tamerlan, who died in the manhunt that followed the atrocity. Djokhar, for his part, was a “good kid”, respected by his teachers, the family favourite. Without Tamerlan the atrocity would not have happened. But the arguments for the defense fell before testimonies of the terrible event, and an evident failure to repent by the accused. The only sign of emotion on the part of the accused was when an aunt could not give her testimony because she broke down in tears.
Families of the victims opposed the death penalty
The trial lasted four months. Bill and Denise Martin, parents of an eight year old child killed in the bombing, and of his mutilated seven year old sister, tearing apart their lives, published an appeal in the Boston Globe of 17th April, declaring their opposition to the death penalty.
It is most probable that the verdict will be appealed. Of the 80 persons sentenced to death in a Federal Court only 3 have been executed. Some died in prison or committed suicide, but most cases drag on.
An adequate punishment for a despicable crime
Loretta Lynch, minister of justice, expressed the hope that the verdict would bring a certain form of peace to the victims and their families. One victim, Sydney Corcoran who was himself injured while his mother lost both legs in the incident, expressed satisfaction that Djokhar Tsarnaev would go, and that he and his mother could continue their lives. “Justice”, he said, “is an eye for an eye”. His sentiment is shared by the killer, who wrote “The American government kills our innocent civilians. We, Muslims, are one. If you injure one of us, you injure us all. Cease killing our innocents and we too will stop.” During reading of his sentence Djokhar remained impassive.