Why putting Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death is wrong

The reprehensibility of the alleged terrorist shouldn't cloud our judgment about human life

Peace tree
(Image credit: (REUTERS/Dominick Reuter))

This week, Boston passed an important milestone on its road to recovery from last year's horrific bombing: the city's annual marathon came and went without incident. And while the scars, both literal and figurative, are still very real for the bombing's victims, the healing process has largely shifted out of the public gaze. Yet, there remains one unanswered question that will inevitably push the bombing back into the focus: will 20-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev get the death penalty?

Though Massachusetts is not a death penalty state, federal prosecutors announced in January that they would seek the execution of Tsarnaev, and it appears they have a good deal of support nationwide for their decision. While just a third of Boston residents favored executing Tsarnaev according to a September Boston Globe poll, polling conducted nationally in May of 2013 found that 70 percent of Americans would support the death penalty for Tsarnaev if convicted. Compare that with the 55 percent of adults who favor the death penalty generally, and it appears that Tsarnaev has inspired more than a few special-case considerations.

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Elizabeth Stoker writes about Christianity, ethics, and policy for Salon, The Atlantic, and The Week. She is a graduate of Brandeis University, a Marshall Scholar, and a current Cambridge University divinity student. In her spare time, Elizabeth enjoys working in the garden and catching up on news of the temporal world.