Jury Sentences Boston Marathon Bomber to Death
May 16, 2015 4:57 AM   Subscribe

The jury deliberating the fate of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev announced Friday that he will be sentenced to death by lethal injection for the 2013 attack. The decision in the penalty phase of his trial came after just over 14 hours of deliberations. He was convicted last month of all 30 federal charges against him, 17 of which carried the possibility of the death penalty.

Three people were killed and more than 260 were injured when two pressure-cooker bombs packed with nails and ball bearings exploded near the marathon finish line on April 15, 2013. Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, also killed a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer days later.

Tsarnaev, 21, stood with his hands folded, his head slightly bowed, upon learning his fate. The execution would be carried out by lethal injection, though the case is likely to go through years of appeals.

The verdict marked the first time in the post-9/11 era that federal prosecutors have won the death penalty in a terrorism case.

The six counts that brought Tsarnaev a death sentence all relate to the second of two pressure-cooker bombs, which caused the explosion on Boylston Street in front of the Forum restaurant on April 15, 2013. He was not sentenced to death for the first bomb, which was planted by his brother, Tamerlan, nor for the shooting death of MIT officer Sean Collier.

With its decision, the jury rejected virtually every argument that the defense put forth, including the centerpiece of its case — that Mr. Tsarnaev’s older brother, Tamerlan, had held a malevolent sway over him and led him into committing the crimes.

According to verdict forms that the jurors completed, only three of the 12 jurors believed that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had acted under his brother’s influence.

Beyond that, the jury put little stock in any part of the defense. Only two jurors believed that Mr. Tsarnaev had expressed sorrow and remorse for his actions, a stinging rebuke to the assertion by Sister Helen Prejean, a Roman Catholic nun and renowned death penalty opponent, that he was “genuinely sorry” for what he had done.

Reaction from Bostonians and survivors was mixed. “I hope this verdict provides a small amount of closure to the survivors, families, and all impacted by the violent and tragic events surrounding the 2013 Boston Marathon,” the mayor of Boston, Martin J. Walsh, said in a statement.

“Today is not a day for celebration,” said the United States attorney for Massachusetts, Carmen Ortiz. “It is not a day for political or moral debate. It is a day for reflection and healing.”
posted by kinetic (290 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm one of the seemingly few people around these parts who's willing to consider any capital punishment, but this ain't the guy to get it. Of course, I didn't see all the evidence that the jury did, but I definitely got the sense that there's a more than reasonable possibility that he was just a dumb kid made briefly into a monster, and who can be un-made. Sadly, that doesn't seem to be the standard even on a jury of Massachusettsians.
posted by Etrigan at 5:07 AM on May 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


Well, a jury of Massachusettians specifically selected to not be opposed to the death penalty on principle.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 5:18 AM on May 16, 2015 [58 favorites]


This makes me so sad. The death penalty is barbaric and anyone who disagrees should watch Werner Herzog's film "Into the Abyss".
posted by Librarypt at 5:24 AM on May 16, 2015 [11 favorites]


Well, a jury of Massachusettians specifically selected to not be opposed to the death penalty on principle.

That's what bothers me. Does anyone have the numbers on how much of Boston/Mass supports the dealth penalty? Because I can guarantee you that 100% is not a representative sampling.
posted by phunniemee at 5:27 AM on May 16, 2015 [30 favorites]


The commonly cited statistic is that 60% of Boston/MA opposes the death penalty. (I last saw it cited here).

I'm so disappointed by this verdict.
posted by TwoStride at 5:30 AM on May 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


I also think that putting Sister Prejean on the stand might have hurt the defense; given how unemotive Tsarnaev has been through this whole thing, her claims that he's been deeply repentent seemed... I dunno. I feel like it had the opposite effect of what she intended.
posted by TwoStride at 5:33 AM on May 16, 2015 [10 favorites]


Vengeance, not justice. I expected better from us. :(
posted by xbonesgt at 5:35 AM on May 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I expected better from us.

Hoped? Always. Expected? eh...
posted by obfuscation at 5:36 AM on May 16, 2015 [3 favorites]




Life in prison, no parole seems appropriate. The death penalty will just make him a martyr in the eyes of other fanatic extremists. Just a sad story all the way around. What a waste.
posted by holybagel at 5:46 AM on May 16, 2015 [10 favorites]


It's not about Tsarnaev, and I for one frankly don't care if he lives or dies. It's about us and our society, which spends enormous sums of money to kill people -- whether with drones or bombs or tanks or lethal injections. What does this say about *our* values?
posted by Slothrup at 5:48 AM on May 16, 2015 [13 favorites]


I don't feel as bad as for Tsarnev (if at all) as I do for all the people who are taking smug satisfaction in his death sentence. I'd like to think that we're a better country than that. Apparently not.
posted by KingEdRa at 5:48 AM on May 16, 2015 [11 favorites]


And nothing of value was lost. Good riddance.
posted by Venadium at 5:50 AM on May 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


[One comment deleted. People can voice their own opinions, but skip stuff like "anyone who disagrees, should be forced to do XYZ" or similar. Generally, everyone, do not direct comments toward other members.]
posted by taz (staff) at 5:51 AM on May 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


The death penalty reduces us all.
posted by entropone at 5:57 AM on May 16, 2015 [54 favorites]


My wife is in favor of the sentence. I have been opposed to it vehemently.
Last night, when we saw the splash screen for the 11:00 news splashed through Grimm, she may have understood for the first time how this is now going to be a sensationalized martyr circus instead of a quick and soon forgotten closure that the anonymity of a supermaxx prison would have afforded him.

I don't know how long it is going to take to put him to death, but I think we both know my kids will be old enough to really understand it and know who he was and what he did before it happens.
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:59 AM on May 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


I haven't dug into the numbers, but the Globe published a poll (probably paywalled, sorry) a couple weeks ago stating 15% support for a death sentence here, which, needless to say, is extremely low.

This left me with a very heavy heart. I understand how federal law differs from state law, but it still feels, on an emotional level, disrespectful of our laws and culture as a state to sentence him to death when the majority of people here are not in favor of this type of punishment. Those of us who were opposed were denied a voice in this case (as we are in all death penalty cases), and even among those who are okay with it in certain cases, there are a lot around here who share Etrigan's sentiment of "maybe, but not this case."

Not looking forward to the gears of the system grinding through years of appeals. The media coverage will be less, but it will still be lingering.
posted by Kosh at 6:00 AM on May 16, 2015 [25 favorites]


Once again the terrorists win. And once again the dim-witted, ham-fisted, utterly clueless, stupid, petty, vengeful police state has no idea that they got their asses whipped and allowed a couple of low-rent thugs to change our society for the worse.

The police violated the constitutional rights of half of Boston and cost the city hundreds of millions of dollars so they could corner an unarmed teenager (that they knew was unarmed) in a boat. With assault weapons and body armor and robots. Heroes. Boston strong my ass.
posted by umberto at 6:08 AM on May 16, 2015 [71 favorites]


I'm a Bostonian and despite having cheered at the finish line for over 25 years, decided early the morning of the bombing not to go. Without a doubt, I would have been very close to where Martin Richard stood and was killed. I work in Watertown, not far from where Tsarnaev was captured. I'm friendly with Watertown police. I was offered a teaching position at Richard's elementary school.

Like most Bostonians, I have more than a few personal connections to this tragedy. But we all saw the images. We were all part of the lockdown. We all watched the shootout and his capture. We're all part of this story and none of us want to be.

So many of us are survivors of the bombing, yet you won't see us in the news. But we consider choices more deliberately. We live more thoughtfully. We remember to say, "I love you," when we end phone calls. We hug our kids a little more tightly.

Boston Strong may feel cliche´d to many; it isn't to us. What happened that day united and changed Bostonians.

I just wanted the whole damned trial and sentencing to end. Just be over. Be done. I don't want to see his face in the news. I don't want to read that he's jaunty/expressionless/smirking in court. That Sister Prejean noted his remorse. I don't care. I want him gone.

In my mind, Tsarnaev needs to become the tiniest of all possible footnotes to this tragedy. There could never be a sentence that felt right because I don't care if he lives or dies. I just want him out of the collective psyche.

But I know this: he made a choice. His choice changed the lives of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people. He wove himself into the tapestry of Boston, into our collective story, in a horrifying way.

The jury also made a choice that his right to life has ended. As a supporter of life this saddens me, but as a Bostonian, it doesn't sadden me that much.
posted by kinetic at 6:08 AM on May 16, 2015 [41 favorites]


>he was just a dumb kid

If you're "dumb" enough to plan and execute bombings, then maybe being put down so you can't hurt anyone else is in the best interests of the the rest of us.

>It's about us and our society, which spends enormous sums of money to kill people

Ironically, the not-killing-people seems to be most of the cost of killing people. The endless appeals in court cases. Smart bombs instead of dumb bombs. We could save money if we were less intent on not killing them.

>The death penalty reduces us all.

and chemotherapy makes you sick.
posted by anti social order at 6:12 AM on May 16, 2015 [10 favorites]


And nothing of value was lost. Good riddance.

Just because I'm not going to miss the little fucker doesn't mean it's right to whack him.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:15 AM on May 16, 2015 [20 favorites]


(that they knew was unarmed)

How could they possibly have known this?
posted by Venadium at 6:17 AM on May 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


>he was just a dumb kid

If you're "dumb" enough to plan and execute bombings, then maybe being put down so you can't hurt anyone else is in the best interests of the the rest of us.


Hey, feel free to clip my words as closely as you have to in order to misrepresent them.

Or, if you're actually interested in having a conversation and not just spewing your venom, take a look at what I wrote around those words: ...I definitely got the sense that there's a more than reasonable possibility that he was just a dumb kid made briefly into a monster, and who can be un-made. (emphasis added)

Note that A) I qualify those six words you cut out, and B) I'm referring to the defense argument that he was under the sway of his older brother. Perhaps you've been lucky enough never to have suffered peer pressure. Well done, you. But the possibility of that being what drove him "to plan and execute bombings" is -- to me, at least -- high enough that I don't think he should be "put down". He's not, as much as you appear to want him to be, a rabid animal.

Or at least, he isn't any more of one than the rest of us.
posted by Etrigan at 6:22 AM on May 16, 2015 [17 favorites]


and chemotherapy makes you sick.

Which is why they try everything else first. And it's not used as a preventative measure.
posted by davros42 at 6:23 AM on May 16, 2015 [10 favorites]


Which is why they try everything else first. And it's not used as a preventative measure.

The exact same could be said for the death penalty.
posted by holybagel at 6:27 AM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


[Folks, seriously, this really needs not to be a thread of people attacking each other. Please just comment on the topic and save the attacks on other members. And let's not get into huge derails on analogies (chemotherapy, etc.). If we cannot do this thread, then we can't, and we'll delete. But maybe people can give a shot at decent discussion?]
posted by taz (staff) at 6:35 AM on May 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


If we cannot do this thread, then we can't, and we'll delete. But maybe people can give a shot at decent discussion?

Thanks, taz. Please, people?
posted by kinetic at 6:38 AM on May 16, 2015


When the trial began, I was undecided as to what I wished his fate to be. I'm not morally opposed to the death penalty in theory, but its application across the United States is simply too haphazard and racially biased to countenance.

Then my friend Becki spoke on NPR about Dzhokhar and helped me see. I believe she changed quite a few minds with her words. It's easy to see the people on trial as monsters, but the simple truth is they're all human. They have lives and families and stories of their own; though they may be fractured and damaged and ruined.

Listen to her words and tell me that you don't feel something for the boy who was lost on that day.

I'm not trying to minimize the suffering of his victims or justify his actions, but in the rush for revenge we risk losing a part of who we are.
posted by Lighthammer at 6:42 AM on May 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


Disappointing. Even though I know it's technically on the up-and-up, it feels like our state's rights are being abrogated by letting a jury convened in Massachusetts rule for the death penalty when the Commonwealth has abolished it.
posted by threeants at 6:49 AM on May 16, 2015 [18 favorites]


I understand how federal law differs from state law, but it still feels, on an emotional level, disrespectful of our laws and culture as a state to sentence him to death when the majority of people here are not in favor of this type of punishment.

I don't live in Massachusetts but this was my reaction, too. It seems like a weird imposition that, in another context, would get the states' rights people into a froth.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:49 AM on May 16, 2015 [11 favorites]


I'm opposed to the death penalty in all cases, but I think even people who are not opposed to it should be opposed to it here. Executing him will give him someone for other terrorist sympathists to rally around as a martyr. In prison, he'd disappear, never be heard from again, and there'd by nothing to rally around. From a public safety perspective it's much better to have this guy rotting in prison in obscurity than dying or in the public eye due to endless appeals.

So, is there any possibility of anyone taking that argument at this point? That is, as I understand it, it's the judge that does the sentencing. Could the judge disregard the jury verdict in the name of public safety? Could the governor grant a stay (or whatever it is governor's do) immediately and this make this effectively a life sentence? Is there anyone who has the power to just override this and who has the tiniest probability of doing so?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:49 AM on May 16, 2015


As a Massachusetts resident, it bothers me that this is the sentence. I think, as a state, we're quite opposed to the death penalty (I certainly am), and the idea of killing someone a punishment for killing people is barbaric.
posted by xingcat at 6:50 AM on May 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I am absolutely against the death penalty. It reduces 'us' to the same level as those who choose to kill others for their own sick reason.

In Tasmania in the 90's there was a terrible young man who killed over 30 people just going about their day at a popular tourist attraction. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, the government at the time brought in long-reaching, substantial gun control laws and society was changed in all kinds of ways. Without googling, I can't easily remember that guys name but I do remember his legacy. He'll die in prison and I'm not sorry about and I also don't begrudge a single tax dollar spent in keeping him there for as long as it takes.

The death penalty diminishes us all and makes martyrs of those who deserve to be forgotten.
posted by h00py at 6:51 AM on May 16, 2015 [14 favorites]


“It is not a day for political or moral debate.”

Carmen Ortiz continues to be odious, I see. Let's have a loud political and moral debate.
posted by busted_crayons at 6:51 AM on May 16, 2015 [10 favorites]


I'm no fan if the death penalty, but don't have a problem with this one. There's no defense for what he did and no excuse. It'sunderstandable that society has to decided to put him down for his attack on it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:52 AM on May 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


amazes me how many people fear the government, follow conspiracy theories, bitch about activist judges, but looove the death penalty
posted by Legomancer at 6:53 AM on May 16, 2015 [49 favorites]


It's funny that the "liberal" position is to torture Tsarnaev in SuperMax for the rest of his life. very humane.

Yet Anders Breivik can cold-blooded gun down 69 teenagers in Norway and get 21 years. The difference is pretty stark and should give you some pause. After generations of pervasive propaganda of the crudest sort, I think the average jury of US citizens thinks of justice as being some sort of grotesque act of venegeance, like in a professionall wrestling spectacle or action movie.
posted by ennui.bz at 6:54 AM on May 16, 2015 [34 favorites]


Retaliation always comes from a place of weakness and fear, an acknowledgment of control lost.

Unless one is truly a sociopath, In order for people to commit such acts as this man did against innocents, the intended victims must be distorted in their heads as enemy combatants, sympathizers and dehumanized to the point where they all "deserve it."

I think a far more fitting punishment for this man, is a long prison time with a TV screen which periodically shows the deceased and injured lives up to the day of the attack followed by the emotional aftermath... and also the effect one has had on their own families for committing such an attack.

To truly know the Hell one has wrought... is far worse than being cast down into it.
posted by Debaser626 at 6:54 AM on May 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


I think it's so ridiculous to call people monsters, so needlessly reductive. Whoops, he's just a monster, case closed; there are no reasons to consider why someone would do this. It closes off all the questions that might stop it from re-occurring.

Wasting all this energy on killing him is pointless. It won't bring anyone back or fix anything, just give a nasty little charge of vindictive thrill while costing everyone money and time. Is the perpetrator worth it? No. The perpetrator never is worth state murdering in cases like this where we are completely certain who did it. And most of the time the person being murdered by the state is hardly certain to be the actual offender, so that adds horrific injustice to the pointlessness of the action.

I don't have any sympathy for someone who kills other human beings, whether on a small or large scale. I just object to shoving them in the wicker man while ignoring the fact that we need to think about how to avert the next sad little freak who thinks it would be fun to blow up a bunch of innocent people.
posted by winna at 6:56 AM on May 16, 2015 [20 favorites]


I'm against the death penalty, and if I wanted to I could speak about my experiences as a Bostonian and my opinions of those days, but what is the point? I don't know where the jury was pulled from; I can only guess at the level of connection they had to the horrible crime, or how it affected them; but I do know that people with the same principles as I were deliberately excluded from the official process of justice.

I understand that federal law must supersede state law, but getting a jury like that in Massachusetts does mock at the majority of people affected by the crime, people whose principles haven't changed.
posted by Hypatia at 7:04 AM on May 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


I am most probably wrong thinking this, but, in my mind this is not any sort of normal murder case. Peer pressure or not, this, and I use the term lightly, person chose to not only kill, but kill without facing the targets and kill indiscriminately, not military or police, which I suppose I could see as supporting a point of view, but women and children that have done nothing to him or the causes he espoused. As such, I am afraid I do see him as a broken, rabid animal, and remain unconvinced given his crime and subsequent behavior that there is any way he will be able to be rehabilitated. Martyrdom notwithstanding, I see no other solution to the case other than that he be put down. We will, of course, be offering him a kindness, as I suspect his tenure in prison would end in a much less humane fashion.

Yes, I have issues. But no, I have never lived a violent life (other than games) nor have I ever seriously thought killing someone is a solution to an issue (except in a case like this), much less slaughtering a crowd. He may have issues too, and had to deal with supposed peer pressure from his brother, but, to be counter as a human, at some point he had to step away and say "No. I will not do this."
posted by Samizdata at 7:04 AM on May 16, 2015


Yet Anders Breivik can cold-blooded gun down 69 teenagers in Norway and get 21 years. The difference is pretty stark and should give you some pause. After generations of the crudest sort of pervasive propaganda, I think the average jury of US citizens thinks of justice as being some sort of grotesque act of venegeance, like in a professionall wrestling spectacle or action movie.

Breivik received 21 years but is also subject to a "preventive detention" clause that will likely keep him in prison for the rest of his life. Which is probably the right move. Some people are beyond rehabilitation into society.

But yes, the real problem here is that a death sentence, if quickly brought about, is probably less cruel and unusual than a life sentence of isolation in an American SuperMax facility. The American prison system is a total and complete human rights disaster and something every American should be ashamed of. But this is somewhat orthogonal to the question of whether a life-sentence is ever warranted. In Tsarnaev's case, I don't think it is. If we made an effort to rehabilitate him, after a 20 year sentence he might come out with love for a country which showed such mercy to a misguided kid who grew up in horrible circumstances and made a terrible mistake. But that's not this country.
posted by dis_integration at 7:05 AM on May 16, 2015 [29 favorites]


I'm an outsider and this comes as absolutely no surprise. The American justice system as administered has never been about justice and never will be without immense change.
It has and seemingly always will be about vengence, red in tooth and claw.
posted by adamvasco at 7:12 AM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


A bit over the top. Three people were killed. Lock him up.
posted by ReeMonster at 7:12 AM on May 16, 2015


Luckily only three people were killed.
posted by smackfu at 7:16 AM on May 16, 2015


It bothers me this could become a case about the death penalty and not about what happened in Boston. Tsarnaev deserves to be shunned and punished for his crime, and any rehabilitation would surely need to involve acceptance of his victims' needs for vengeance and closure. But now the discussion will become about the death penalty itself, and not about the crimes he committed. I don't see that as a win for anyone.
posted by frumiousb at 7:17 AM on May 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


(that they knew was unarmed)

How could they possibly have known this?


I recall (perhaps faultily) news people discussing live how the police were using xray and metal detection on the boat to determine he was not armed. Like an hour before they could bring themselves to do anything. With armor. And assault weapons. And overwhelming odds.
posted by umberto at 7:22 AM on May 16, 2015


Four people were killed.

Martin Richard, Lingzi Lu, Krystle Campbell and Sean Collier.
posted by kinetic at 7:22 AM on May 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


The death penalty is going to be great deterrent for religious kooks who desire martyrdom [rolls eyes]
posted by Renoroc at 7:24 AM on May 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


Well, a jury of Massachusettians specifically selected to not be opposed to the death penalty on principle.

That's what bothers me.


Why is that what bothers you? I understand being opposed to the death penalty. But given that the death penalty is part of the law, of course jurors who'd be unwilling to apply that law aren't going to be selected. That seems like a basic principle that would apply in any jury selection, whether or not the death penalty is an issue: don't select jurors who'd have a moral objection to correctly applying the law to the facts of the case.
posted by John Cohen at 7:25 AM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Having him in custody was and is an opportunity to study how a person could be persuaded to do such a thing, and how, potentially, they might be persuaded otherwise. Totally apart from my opposition to the death penalty, It is an incredible waste to kill him and throw that opportunity away.

When we automatically call people who do terrible things "monsters" - terrorists, pedophiles, serial killers, etc - we blind ourselves to the possibility that the next terrorist or pedophile or serial killer could be stopped from ever committing a crime. But we don't choose to think that way. It's easier for us if they're not human.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:26 AM on May 16, 2015 [14 favorites]


Breivik received 21 years but is also subject to a "preventive detention" clause that will likely keep him in prison

21 years for the deliberate murder of 50+ civilians seems irresponsible and naive - though I understand there may be a 'maximum' sentence by law there. Even if they do manage to use other 'legal' means to keep him in prison - the named punishment for the crime was, to me, astonishing.

My problems with the death penalty are less philosophical and have more to do with the inherent mistakes in the process and the fact that it seems like a tool used mostly on minorities. So in the case of Tsarnaev, when there is zero doubt as to his guilt and his crime was truly 'heinous' by any standard, I am not overly concerned. Clearly there are more inappropriate punishments out there...
posted by rosswald at 7:27 AM on May 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


From the end of this NYT article:

"Of the 80 federal defendants sentenced to death since 1988, only three, including Timothy J. McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, have been executed. Some of the sentences were vacated or the defendants died or committed suicide.

Most cases are still tied up in appeal."

I understand that it wasn't really the jury's duty to consider that angle, but I wonder if most people who support the death penalty in this particular case realize the extremely long odds of their punishment ever being enacted. (I say "in this particular case" because in many state cases, the appeals process is long but the overall odds of eventual execution are much higher.)
posted by veggieboy at 7:29 AM on May 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure any country gets the revenge vs rehabilitation balance right, but America seems to not even care about the rehabilitation side of things...
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 7:36 AM on May 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


One problem is that people who support the death penalty are also more likely to be tough on crime types generally lacking in empathy. Weed the bleeding hearts out of your jury and you're far more likely to achieve a conviction. (Although, ANAL)
posted by Flashman at 7:39 AM on May 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


[Couple comments deleted. Again, this thread absolutely needs to not get personal. If people can't adhere to that I will take it down. I know people have strong feelings but you can't vent those directly on other members, period.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:40 AM on May 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


ennui.bz: "It's funny that the "liberal" position is to torture Tsarnaev in SuperMax for the rest of his life. very humane."

Punishment, I think, could have been, in general terms, a range from observation to (partial, obviously) restitution to rehabilitation to incarceration. The Federal system isn't set up that way so we get -- in typical American fashion -- a false dichotomy: permanent incarceration or execution?

What's unfortunate in my mind (not "funny", I think) is that the prison system is set up in a way that it is easy to see it as torture. I think it's been arranged this way by people who are more aligned with execution as punishment. The fact that this permits those who are pro-death penalty to judge anti-death penalty as being morally deficient is just one more cruel irony on top of all the others.
posted by boo_radley at 7:47 AM on May 16, 2015 [15 favorites]


Carmen Ortiz was also the prosecutor of Aaron Swartz.

I don't really know what to do with that information.
posted by rustcrumb at 7:57 AM on May 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


John Cohen: But given that the death penalty is part of the law, of course jurors who'd be unwilling to apply that law aren't going to be selected.

As others have said, it's not usually part of the law here in Massachusetts. It was only an option because it was a federal case, so yes, a jury willing to consider the death penalty had to be selected. While that was legally correct, it left many in MA feeling like we were not accurately represented on the jury. I find it emotionally complicated and frustrating to have a federal law imposed over our majority-approved state law.
posted by swerve at 8:00 AM on May 16, 2015 [10 favorites]


[…] but I think we both know my kids will be old enough to really understand it and know who he was and what he did before it happens.

Thing is they won't. They will be divorced from the whole thing and it will be like when they killed Osama bin Laden a decade later. Those who watched the towers fall were reflective and silent. The college kids who who were in grade school took to the streets with chats of USA! USA! USA! and hoisted beers to the military.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:00 AM on May 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


Sean Collier's sister, who is also an alderwoman in Melrose, has written a bit about her opposition to using the death penalty against Tsarnaev.
posted by threeants at 8:05 AM on May 16, 2015 [10 favorites]


What is the purpose of a criminal sentence?

Does anyone think this guy can be rehabilitated? He (as of yet) showed no remorse for what he did.

Punishment does less good than rewards in terms of behavior modification. So its not like putting him in prison is supposed to accomplish anything...especially when it comes YEARS after the actual act.

Also, I love hearing about how the use of capital punishment defines America as a society.

HAHAHAHAHA!

So the few (probably in the double digits) executions we have in the US is WAYYYY more important than how we systematically lock up an entire group of people?

Our system is fucked, killing this dude (yes, it is state-sanctioned murder) won't make it better. But I really think killing this dude will make the world a better place for the people who have suffered because of the acts of this dude.

I could not care less about what this murderer actually thinks about this sentence. I just hope this dude's death helps heal the victims.
posted by hal_c_on at 8:08 AM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I just hope this dude's death helps heal the victims.

But the victims aren't a monolith. Many of them--including Martin Richards's family--are opposed to the death sentence.
posted by TwoStride at 8:11 AM on May 16, 2015 [22 favorites]


Does anyone think this guy can be rehabilitated?

It's certainly possible, but it makes sense that after committing acts such as what he did, society decides that the time and investment just isn't worth it. If one is going to attack society in this manner, it's not odd that society will strike back. It's not pretty or a cause for celebration, just something that has to be done.

It'll be years before he's ever put to death, so I doubt this sentence will mean much to anyone, but it's an imperfect world. If anything, his time on death row might cause reflection and growth, possibly remorse. That what? Does finally growing a conscience mean society shouldn't kill him for his attacks?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:13 AM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I am morally opposed to the death penalty. I believe it is barbaric in all applications and I am incapable of understanding the "killing people is wrong, so we're going to kill you" argument.

That said: I am especially troubled by the precedent. I remember reading an article many years ago (you'll forgive me my failure to Google it) about how treating terrorism like ordinary criminal activity could effectively work as a deterrent. I fail to see how the public martyrdom of a photogenic young man will in any way discourage other similarly minded criminals from following suit in the name of glory or Jihad or whathefuckever inspires people to commit mass murder. And furthermore, I don't know how effectively turning a murderer into a celebrity in any way provides justice for his victims. Life in prison.
posted by thivaia at 8:23 AM on May 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


The death penalty reduces us all.

Maybe. But it reduces killers more than it reduces the rest of the population, so I'm kinda for it in certain situations.

Having him in custody was and is an opportunity to study how a person could be persuaded to do such a thing, and how, potentially, they might be persuaded otherwise. Totally apart from my opposition to the death penalty, It is an incredible waste to kill him and throw that opportunity away.

This is fiction. Do you really think this guy will sit down with psychs and docs and talk about his goals and motivations? He hasn't yet. Almost nobody does.

But the victims aren't a monolith.
True. But SOME of the victims probably want an execution. Thats good enough for me. I feel that this execution would be more positive for the victims (and their families) than negative.

I wish I could say "oh yes, all of the victims and their families have forgiven this person. Lets move onto a less punitive sentence". But thats not the case, and I seriously feel that this dude's death will make people feel better.

It doesn't sound pretty, but this is how I'm viewing this...despite the fact that SOME victims are totally opposed to the death penalty.

There are lots of injustices in the world, this shit does not rank with me.
posted by hal_c_on at 8:24 AM on May 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Has the Islamic State or al-Qaeda issued any statements about this? Because the Tsarnaev brothers always seemed like classic American lone nut domestic terrorists who happened to identify with Chechen Islamic radicalism, but had no wider ties to actual international terrorist networks. The execution of Timothy McVeigh didn't make him into much of a martyr for the militia movement, did it?
posted by Apocryphon at 8:27 AM on May 16, 2015


Given the substantially innocent deaths of; immigrants/refugees in the Mediterranean/South Pacific, citizens in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, the innocent victims of firearms,drunk driving. ISIS and women/children in many parts of the world the fate the morality, legality and social implications of this young mans future is not a high priority for me. I think I understand ( on an elementary level ) the passion on both sides but I find the sensationalizing of the news and controversy quite off putting. I don't have a well defined position on this and I am sure I will not.
posted by rmhsinc at 8:29 AM on May 16, 2015



It's not pretty or a cause for celebration, just something that has to be done.


Has to be done. Says who? I realize that Metafilter is a predominantly American site. But this is the world wide web, and in most* of that wide world, capital punishment is NOT "just something that has to be done".


* no capital punishment in any of these nations. Date refers to the year that the law changed.

Albania (2000)
Andorra (1990)
Angola (1992)
Argentina (2008)
Armenia (2003)
Australia (1984)
Austria (1950)
Azerbaijan (1998)
Belgium (1996)
Bolivia (2009)
Bhutan (2004)
Bosnia-Herzegovina (1997)
Bulgaria (1998)
Burundi (2009 )
Cambodia (1989)
Canada (1976)
Cape Verde (1981)
Colombia (1910)
Cook Islands (2007)
Costa Rica (1877)
Côte d'Ivoire (2000)
Croatia (1990)
Cyprus (1983)
Czech Republic (1990)
Denmark (1933)
Djibouti (1995)
Dominican Republic (1966)
Ecuador (1906)
Estonia (1998)
Finland (1949)
France (1981)
Gabon (2010)
Georgia (1997)
Germany (1949)
Greece (1993)
Guinea-Bissau (1993)
Haiti (1987)
Honduras (1956)
Hungary (1990)
Iceland (1928)
Ireland (1990)
Italy (1947)
Kyrgyzstan (2007)
Kiribati (1979)
Latvia (2012)
Liechtenstein (1987)
Lithuania (1998)
Luxembourg (1979)
Macedonia (1991)
Malta (1971)
Marshall Islands (1986)
Mauritius (1995)
Mexico (2005)
Micronesia (1986)
Moldova (1995)
Monaco (1962)
Montenegro (2002)
Mozambique (1990)
Namibia (1990)
Nepal (1990)
Netherlands (1870)
New Zealand (1961)
Nicaragua (1979)
Niue (n.a.)
Norway (1905)
Palau (n.a.)
Panama (1903)
Paraguay (1992)
Philippines (2006)
Poland (1997)
Portugal (1867)
Romania (1989)
Rwanda (2007)
Samoa (2004)
San Marino (1848)
São Tomé and Príncipe (1990)
Senegal (2004)
Serbia (2002)
Seychelles (1993)
Slovakia (1990)
Slovenia (1989)
Solomon Islands (1966)
South Africa (1995)
Spain (1978)
Sweden (1921)
Switzerland (1942)
Timor-Leste (1999)
Togo (2009)
Turkey (2002)
Turkmenistan (1999)
Tuvalu (1978)
Ukraine (1999)
United Kingdom (1973)
Uruguay (1907)
Uzbekistan (2008)
Vanuatu (1980)
Vatican City (1969)
Venezuela (1863)

posted by philip-random at 8:32 AM on May 16, 2015 [53 favorites]


I don't think that criminal sentencing should be based on making victims (or their families) feel better.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 8:35 AM on May 16, 2015 [46 favorites]


Our schools are full of hungry kids.

Our prisons are full of victims of organised discrimination.

In a clear case like Tsarnaev's once the verdict is in, the prisoner should be led into a waiting room, inside the court building. Sitting in that room, the prisoner should be made to fall asleep, and then the attorneys, judge and jury should watch the prisoner's life end. The end. After that, the cost is on the family for cremation or burial. It should be that swift, and that inexpensive. It should be that painless, that matter of fact.

As a nation we go out and make massive war to facilitate now and future business, often that has no interest in the quality of life or safety of the American people, and certainly not for our troops. So when it comes to the issue of safety for Americans attending a public event, it seems like the least the powers that be can do, is to get real on the issue of time and cost consuming posturing in a case like Tsarnaev's. We have spent billions already, if not trillions on the problem of potential violence, and real violence inside the US by foreign actors. Let us be done with this agent in short order.

We have no problem at all blowing children to bits all over this planet because many "soldiers" our forces encounter are child conscripts, or regular army of states who start adulthood much earlier than we do. Police units in this nation have with ill fame acted as ad hoc judge, jury and executioner to American children. It is an absolutely pathetic posture pretending to be a different sort of nation than we are. Apparently we are willing to spend millions and millions to pretend we don't spend trillions to put people to death and call it just war.
posted by Oyéah at 8:36 AM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Does anyone think this guy can be rehabilitated? He (as of yet) showed no remorse for what he did.

Do we really have any reason to believe that he is a completely incorrigible sociopathic murderer who would really go right out and do it again? If anything, his acts had politico-religious motivations, not pure bloodlust. To assert the impossibility of rehabilitation is basically to say that this person lies outside of the scope of humanity, is a purely evil monstrosity. This portrait of him by the nytimes hardly shows that. So yes, he could probably be rehabilitated.

And as to remorse: do you think Sister Prejean is just straight up lying?
posted by dis_integration at 8:36 AM on May 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


The dude demonstrated no remorse. I'm OK with executing monsters.
posted by uraniumwilly at 8:36 AM on May 16, 2015


Most of the jury apparently believed Dzhokhar was the mastermind, not his brother. I don't know how a reasonable person could come anywhere near that conclusion, but that's the "reality" they went with.
posted by Camofrog at 8:37 AM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's not pretty or a cause for celebration, just something that has to be done.


Has to be done. Says who? I realize that Metafilter is a predominantly American site. But this is the world wide web, and in most* of that wide world, capital punishment is NOT "just something that has to be done".



Thats really disingenuous. Nobody said that CAPITAL PUNISHMENT had to be done. That phrase was used in the context below by BB.


It's certainly possible, but it makes sense that after committing acts such as what he did, society decides that the time and investment just isn't worth it. If one is going to attack society in this manner, it's not odd that society will strike back. It's not pretty or a cause for celebration, just something that has to be done.


He's basically saying that if you attack several people at least a few of them are going to want to punish you for it. Cutting off his words, adding your own and then being all bill o'reilly with is is kinda not cool.
posted by hal_c_on at 8:39 AM on May 16, 2015


I feel that this execution would be more positive for the victims (and their families) than negative.

Why?
posted by kewb at 8:40 AM on May 16, 2015


And as to remorse: do you think Sister Prejean is just straight up lying?

"Straight up lying" to save someone's life is probably the kind of lying that people think is "ok".

I feel that this execution would be more positive for the victims (and their families) than negative.

Why?


Because then its finally over for them. Their aggressor is no more.
posted by hal_c_on at 8:43 AM on May 16, 2015


Someone upthread mentioned this, but man, Supermax, wow. Yeah only 3 people were killed, but many were maimed for life and countless others will live the rest of their lives haunted by the unimaginable horror they witnessed that day. Here, it seems to me that vengeance would be sentencing him to life in a cell among people far more evil than him.
posted by good lorneing at 8:43 AM on May 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Here, it seems to me that vengeance would be sentencing him to life in a cell among people far more evil than him.

Where would this be? He committed an act of terrorism that killed some and wounded a lot. Hard to find people more evil than this.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:45 AM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Do we really have any reason to believe that he is a completely incorrigible sociopathic murderer who would really go right out and do it again? If anything, his acts had politico-religious motivations, not pure bloodlust. To assert the impossibility of rehabilitation is basically to say that this person lies outside of the scope of humanity, is a purely evil monstrosity. This portrait of him by the nytimes hardly shows that. So yes, he could probably be rehabilitated.

No remorse after years. Sounds bad.


Here, it seems to me that vengeance would be sentencing him to life in a cell among people far more evil than him.

Where would this be? He committed an act of terrorism that killed some and wounded a lot. Hard to find people more evil than this.


He's a big bad boy when compared to the general populace, but check out some of the dudes who have been locked up in solitary for a while. Those are some pretty scary people because they have unchecked mental illnesses due to their institutionalization.

I know that capital punishment is the ultimate punishment; once administered, you can't make it right with the victim. But I also think its a blessing compared to a life of prison. I honestly think its more humane to execute than persecute.
posted by hal_c_on at 8:49 AM on May 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Because then its finally over for them. Their aggressor is no more.

You know it will take at least five to ten years to actually kill the guy, right?
posted by ZeroAmbition at 8:54 AM on May 16, 2015


Thats really disingenuous. Nobody said that CAPITAL PUNISHMENT had to be done. That phrase was used in the context below by BB.

I read it again. Read it twice. But I'm not getting any nearer to your conclusion. Nor this one, for that matter:

I feel that this execution would be more positive for the victims (and their families) than negative.

Why?

Because then its finally over for them. Their aggressor is no more.


I get that you believe this is so. So be it. I don't. It feels simplistic. As for accusations of disingenuousity, I would have to plead not guilty.

it makes sense that after committing acts such as what he did, society decides that the time and investment just isn't worth it. If one is going to attack society in this manner, it's not odd that society will strike back.

I guess I just believe that society needs to be better than knee-jerk, vengeful "I", else what's the point of it? Interesting that when you look at that list of non-death penalty nations, three are notable for the absence.

USA
China
Russia

It's almost as if empires are one of the main causes of capital punishment. Here's to the dissolution of empires.
posted by philip-random at 8:55 AM on May 16, 2015 [14 favorites]


I seriously feel that this dude's death will make people feel better.

See, this is the problem right here with the US justice system -- the idea that prison and sentencing should be about making the victims "feel better".

It's like a twisted monetary calculus: "See how much bad stuff happened to me? Well, now I get to go and transfer that bad stuff back, which hopefully means I won't have any bad stuff on me, so I will 'feel better', yes."

As if the fact that something horrible happened to you becomes an ideal justification for why you have to do something horrible to another person.
posted by suedehead at 8:56 AM on May 16, 2015 [24 favorites]


In a clear case like Tsarnaev's once the verdict is in, the prisoner should be led into a waiting room, inside the court building. Sitting in that room, the prisoner should be made to fall asleep, and then the attorneys, judge and jury should watch the prisoner's life end. The end. After that, the cost is on the family for cremation or burial. It should be that swift, and that inexpensive. It should be that painless, that matter of fact.

Sure, what could possibly go wrong if you execute people before they have time to appeal?

But ok, let's go with this. Under this system, who should decide what a "clear case" is? To the jury, obviously ANY/EVERY case they convict on is a clear case -- beyond a reasonable doubt. Should there be a higher standard for a case to be considered clear? Otherwise every conviction would be a clear case and there would likely be hundreds of innocent people executed.

Ok, so a higher standard than "beyond a reasonable doubt..." How about "beyond any imaginable doubt"? That would be pretty clear. But of course then this case wouldn't qualify as "clear" since many people have imagined doubts. In fact, I don't think any case would qualify as clear by this standard. So that can't be the standard.

What would the standard of clarity be and what would the due process be for adjudicating it?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:59 AM on May 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


Has to be done. Says who?

A jury in Massachusetts.

"I realize that Metafilter is a predominantly American site. But this is the world wide web, and in most* of that wide world, capital punishment is NOT "just something that has to be done". "

Again, a jury in Massachusetts thinks differently, so...yeah.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:59 AM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I rather doubt that the threat of capital punishment influences terrorists decisions one way or the other. It's ineffective as a deterrent; why should it be effective as encouragement?
posted by five fresh fish at 9:00 AM on May 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


We have spent billions already, if not trillions on the problem of potential violence, and real violence inside the US by foreign actors.

And btw, this man was not a foreigner, he was an American.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:02 AM on May 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm generally opposed to the death penalty, but not here. Saying that he "only" killed four people diminishes the unbelievable catastrophe of that afternoon. Hundreds of people were very seriously injured. Many, many of them lost limbs.

The issue is deeply personal to me, as a marathoner. Everything about the way my local race organization operates changed on that Monday. And yes, it banded our community together, but it did so by instilling a fear of the finish line. I ran a half marathon this morning in Brooklyn and still, two years later, cannot shake the lingering doubts I have, cognizant to always be aware of what's going on.

I think lot of the hesitation around the death penalty is that the appeals process goes on for years. In this case, I don't think it will be.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:02 AM on May 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


I don't think that criminal sentencing should be based on making victims (or their families) feel better.

This a thousand times. We have become a culture that practically worships and definitely fawns over victims. I thought the point of a judicial system was to eliminate this vigilante-style appeasement to make people feel better.
posted by umberto at 9:04 AM on May 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


Again, a jury in Massachusetts thinks differently, so...yeah.

A state which abolished the death penalty in 1984.
posted by umberto at 9:13 AM on May 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


I think in a case like this, sending a mass murderer to prison is preferrable because it makes his figure much more harmless than immortality as a martyr and a symbol.

The debate of punishment vs. rehabilitation is also a fair discussion, but even if he never rehabilitated and spent, like Brevic, all his life writing toxic manifestos and books to influence like-minded terrorists and mass murderers it is still unlikely to be as influential as other terrorist groups out there claiming to speak for him, and using his ghost as a flag.

So in other words, death makes a figure like this immortal. Life in prison, on the other hand, makes a figure like this more human.
posted by ipsative at 9:15 AM on May 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


I don't think that criminal sentencing should be based on making victims (or their families) feel better.

This a thousand times. We have become a culture that practically worships and definitely fawns over victims. I thought the point of a judicial system was to eliminate this vigilante-style appeasement to make people feel better.


The purpose of a judicial system is to have a universally applicable (everyone) and certain process (same crime for different people=same time for different people) for disputes and transgressions that is accepted by the people. When THAT isn't accomplished, then you have a justice system that isn't working. I don't see that happening.

Something horrible happened here, and I think the ONLY thing that can be accomplished here is the lessening of pain. That is my reason for being ok with his sentence.

I hope the violence against this bomber brings peace to those who were hurt by him.

.
.
.
.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:15 AM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Because then its finally over for them. Their aggressor is no more.

But this is an assumption you're making, not anything supported or supportable. Indeed, pretty much everyone who studies or works with crime victims seems to argue the exact opposite: the death of the aggressor is not closure and does not heal.
posted by kewb at 9:17 AM on May 16, 2015 [33 favorites]


I have a question I'd like to ask, and it's not a rhetorical question; I'm genuinely curious. Why does the idea of executing a criminal give anyone more closure or finality than locking up that criminal for the rest of his miserable life?

I'd honestly rather die than spend the rest of my life in a maximum security federal prison. I suspect Tsarnaev would rather die than spend the rest of his life in a maximum security federal prison. The only way he'd ever be let out of that prison is if evidence somehow surfaced that gave undeniable proof that he could not have committed a crime. That won't happen; he's admitted to the crime.

Several people in this thread have said "I'm generally against the death penalty, but this one doesn't bother me." I wonder if those people are also against the idea of sentencing maximums. Imagine if someone said "I'm generally against the idea of imprisoning someone for 50 years for petty theft, but this offender is so unredeemable that it doesn't bother me in this case." Imagine what would happen if we granted unlimited discretion when determining punishments.

After you've done that, take a full accounting of what our society pays just to retain the theoretical right to kill people. Think about the judicial costs of running a prisoner through a gauntlet of appeals just so we can get him to the gallows on the other side. Think about the coercion involved when someone takes a plea bargain just so he can spend the rest of his life in jail instead of going to trial and running the risk of having poison injected into his bloodstream.
posted by savetheclocktower at 9:21 AM on May 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


I hope the violence against this bomber brings peace to those who were hurt by him.

Absolutely, I hope so too. I think it is possible to hope this, and at the same time wonder whether it will.

I find it hard to believe obliterating a criminal from the face of the earth is a better solution, for society and the victims, than letting him live like a criminal in prison the rest of his life.

Capital punishment seems facile. Impulsive. And the extremely technified and rationalized way it is legitimized in society feels so scary to me because deep down I know it makes no sense to kill as punishment.

As for the victims, how can it be helpful to them to have a state say to them: "We killed this person on your behalf"? Doesn't it add to trauma to know that, as opposed to knowing, sure, this person gets to live, but in conditions that will make him miserable and regret his deeds for the rest of his life?
posted by ipsative at 9:24 AM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


savetheclocktower, for me, it's about the fact that in prison, he would still have access to the love and support of his family and whatever friends he has, something he took from Lingzi, Martin, Sean and Krystle.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:26 AM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


But this is an assumption you're making, not anything supported or supportable. Indeed, pretty much everyone who studies or works with crime victims seems to argue the exact opposite: the death of the aggressor is not closure and does not heal.

I have a question I'd like to ask, and it's not a rhetorical question; I'm genuinely curious. Why does the idea of executing a criminal give anyone more closure or finality than locking up that criminal for the rest of his miserable life?


Its all opinion, just like your evidence. People heal differently. I just *think* people will be more relieved, and will think that the world is a more just place when this dude is executed.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:27 AM on May 16, 2015


The police violated the constitutional rights of half of Boston and cost the city hundreds of millions of dollars so they could corner an unarmed teenager (that they knew was unarmed) in a boat. With assault weapons and body armor and robots. Heroes. Boston strong my ass.

I'm not comfortable letting this entire statement go unchallenged.

After the attack and at the time of the lockdown, clearly the city was in a state of shock.

During those last few hours, when the Tsarnaev brothers had killed Sean Collier, kidnapped someone, stole a car and led the police through the streets of a residential neighborhood, NOBODY knew what weapons they had. Nobody even knew who they were, but the police knew that those men SAID they were the Marathon bombers.

At night in a shootout, there was a gun fight, explosives and the younger brother DROVE OVER his brother to escape.

He escaped into a residential neighborhood on foot.

This was a wanted suspected terrorist who had set off explosives at the Marathon, who had killed and maimed HUNDREDS, who had just murdered a police officer, who kidnapped someone, who had JUST DRIVEN OVER HIS OWN BROTHER and who was in hiding.

So, YEAH. With assault weapons and body armor and robots. And cornering? Yes, the police corner suspects who run away from them.

Let's not make statements that imply the monstrous Boston TOTALITARIAN POLICE STATE was assaulting a fucking Boy Scout. Just not cool.

**And I'm curious why this got so many favorites.
posted by kinetic at 9:32 AM on May 16, 2015 [23 favorites]


hal_c_on's comment: Its all opinion, just like your evidence. People heal differently. I just *think* people will be more relieved, and will think that the world is a more just place when this dude is executed.

Well in this case, then, the point is moot. If certain victims will be aided, certain others will be hindered in their healing, it should not be used as an argument either for or against an execution.

I for one, imagine that someone who will initially begrudge Tsarnaev his advantages in prison: life, friendships, etc. will eventually heal towards an acceptance of that, and appreciate the fact that having killed him does not make anything better. Real closure will take years.
posted by ipsative at 9:33 AM on May 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Its all opinion, just like your evidence.

Except for the published study I linked containing actual data and a literature review.
posted by kewb at 9:39 AM on May 16, 2015 [18 favorites]



And as to remorse: do you think Sister Prejean is just straight up lying?


No. I've read her book and think she's wonderful, but I also think people are apt to remember the scene in the movie where she gets the character played by Sean Penn to confess, which he does with great emotion, and think, she can do that with anyone, it's a kind of trick. She is able to make an extraordinary human connection with people; I don't think that's just the movie. It wouldn't surprise me at all if she was able to have a breakthrough with Tsarnaev. It also wouldn't surprise me if it lasted about as long as she was with him. That's not to debunk her positive work; I just don't think Tsarnaev is in a position where he could be other than stoic in his overall attitude to the trial and penalty. It would probably seem like a betrayal of his brother and his family. But for a little bit there, I am guessing Sister Helen got to him.
posted by BibiRose at 9:44 AM on May 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm generally opposed to the death penalty, but not here. Saying that he "only" killed four people diminishes the unbelievable catastrophe of that afternoon. Hundreds of people were very seriously injured. Many, many of them lost limbs.

The issue is deeply personal to me, as a marathoner. Everything about the way my local race organization operates changed on that Monday. And yes, it banded our community together, but it did so by instilling a fear of the finish line. I ran a half marathon this morning in Brooklyn and still, two years later, cannot shake the lingering doubts I have, cognizant to always be aware of what's going on.


Your hobby is not going to be made safer by this person being killed. I empathize with your distress, but the idea that this was some sort of anti-runner attack is very strange.
posted by threeants at 9:49 AM on May 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


but the idea that this was some sort of anti-runner attack is very strange.

That's not my opinion at all. Intent does not equal consequence.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:51 AM on May 16, 2015


According to my Facebook news feed, one impact of the death penalty is that in the US, it is okay to say stuff like "he deserves to fry" in "polite" conversation. Furthermore, that kind of comment also becomes acceptable for a wide range of circumstances, like someone found to have abused a dog or whatever. I would be surprised if people in many other nations even feel as comfortable with "kill him" as a rhetorical device. I think having the death penalty does seriously taint our collective psyche.
posted by snofoam at 9:56 AM on May 16, 2015 [23 favorites]


I just don't think Tsarnaev is in a position where he could be other than stoic in his overall attitude to the trial and penalty.

I think this is very interesting. He might not think he's in that position, but we are putting him in that position to either openly show remorse TO HIS VICTIMS, or not. Maybe he's being true to himself by displaying a sort of indifference.
posted by uraniumwilly at 9:58 AM on May 16, 2015


> 21 years for the deliberate murder of 50+ civilians [Breivik] seems irresponsible and naive

On the contrary, it's the sign of a civilized society. Breivik will never get out - after 21 years he'd have to prove that he was no threat to society and he'll never be able to do that - but the point is that no one is theoretically beyond redemption.

I find it extremely interesting that atheistic countries are the ones which act this way, whereas religious countries, which so often use words like mercy, redeemer, and repentance, in practice believe far more strongly in the inherent and immutable moral evil of criminals.

Regarding this specific case - I'm against the death penalty but I'd hardly think of his execution as some miscarriage of justice - given the death penalty exists, he should definitely get it.

I hope they do it quietly and professionally - but they won't, it'll drag on for years and then be banner headlines. I will resolutely not click on any headlines and filter it out of my newsfeed and strongly suggest everyone else do the same.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:58 AM on May 16, 2015 [14 favorites]


I guess the death penalty is the Christian thing to do.
posted by Lyme Drop at 9:59 AM on May 16, 2015 [12 favorites]


I'm generally opposed to the death penalty, but not here. [. . .]

The issue is deeply personal to me, as a marathoner. Everything about the way my local race organization operates changed on that Monday. And yes, it banded our community together, but it did so by instilling a fear of the finish line. I ran a half marathon this morning in Brooklyn and still, two years later, cannot shake the lingering doubts I have, cognizant to always be aware of what's going on.

I think lot of the hesitation around the death penalty is that the appeals process goes on for years. In this case, I don't think it will be.
Isn't it better and wiser to resist those fears which persuade us that killing is acceptable?

Is it somehow different when the fear is our own? Should we allow our fears to guide us to kill?
posted by mistersquid at 10:07 AM on May 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


snofoam's comment: I think having the death penalty does seriously taint our collective psyche.

I agree. Also if you look in the other direction, the amount of people who go to prison for ridiculous reasons (especially drug crimes) make that as a punishment seem mild. But being in prison is not mild punishment! So whenever a much more horrendous crime comes along, the bar is set so low that many people must think life in prison cannot possibly be punishment enough.

If fewer people went to prison for, say, accumulated municipal violations, prison will be seen as something more exceptional, and life in prison as something really terrible?

Because where that's the case, I'm also guessing there is little or no capital punishment taking place.

I think that, telling a 21-year old, healthy, otherwise until then well-adjusted young man that he will spend the rest of his life in prison, never again have a life partner and travel with them to see the world... well I don't know that that is not a horrible thought.
posted by ipsative at 10:10 AM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


This may be one of those correlation not equaling causation oddities, but it's remarkable to me that the list of countries who do allow the death penalty does not include one single nation in the top 10 by population. Mexico (11) breaks the string.
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:10 AM on May 16, 2015


I guess the death penalty is the Christian thing to do.

It is definitely Old Testament. Blood for blood. Our need for vengeance would only be more transparent if we put him in a field, launched an anti-terrorist drone, and told him to run.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 10:22 AM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Because then its finally over for them. Their aggressor is no more.

the fact that it will take many years to happen has already been mentioned, but it's also that on every appeal, every decision, every time it is back in the news, the families of the victims will be harmed anew. they will be harassed by both sides of the death penalty argument to voice their views and show support for one side or another. they will be pressured to forgive him for what he's done, or to outright state for the unforgiving permanent record that he deserves to die. it will never be finally over for them. that kind of closure does not usually come from having the greatest tragedies of your life in the public eye again and again.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:36 AM on May 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


On the federal-versus-state issue, I'm reminded of the case of Alfonso Rodriguez, which has been controversial in my area.

Very short summary: this was a murder case. Since the victim was taken across state lines (not very far, just over the Red River), a federal murder case was pursued. Neither North Dakota nor Minnesota has the death penalty, but Rodriguez was facing federal charges. He was found guilty and sentenced to death in federal court.

He's still on federal death row: appeals are continuing, and no federal executions have happened since 2003 for various reasons (controversy over the use of injection being one of them, if you've been following the Boston case there are several summaries of the issues around federal executions out there).

But if he is ever executed, he would be the first person executed for a murder committed in Minnesota, or at least partly in Minnesota, in over 100 years. Minnesota explicitly abolished the death penalty in 1911.
posted by gimonca at 10:36 AM on May 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


dis_integration: "Does anyone think this guy can be rehabilitated? He (as of yet) showed no remorse for what he did.

Do we really have any reason to believe that he is a completely incorrigible sociopathic murderer who would really go right out and do it again? If anything, his acts had politico-religious motivations, not pure bloodlust. To assert the impossibility of rehabilitation is basically to say that this person lies outside of the scope of humanity, is a purely evil monstrosity. This portrait of him by the nytimes hardly shows that. So yes, he could probably be rehabilitated.

And as to remorse: do you think Sister Prejean is just straight up lying?
"

As far as Sister Prejean goes, I don't think she was lying per se. I think she was filtering his responses through her own perceptions and religious bias. Also, I didn't see a wink of anything but complete withdrawal, with one exception, during the trial footage. Did he cry or beg forgiveness? Nope. I also find it somewhat telling about his "accidental" running over of his brother during his escape.
posted by Samizdata at 10:37 AM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


OHenryPacey -

According to wikipedia, two of the top ten largest population countries only technically have the death penalty. Russia has the death penalty as part of its penal code but has signed (but not ratified) a treaty that forbids the death penalty, with the result that Russian courts have upheld a moratorium on the death penalty since 1996 (or 1999 if you count Chechnya). Brazil technically has the death penalty, but only for military officers convicted of heinous crimes (murder, treason, genocide, etc.) by military courts during wartime. In practice, Brazil hasn't had a judicial execution since 1876.
posted by firechicago at 10:40 AM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


All i have to offer is that the destruction of the Boston Marathon affected me deeply. Such a deliberate destruction of human life at its most joyful moment! I'd gladly put a bullet in this young man's head, and I am deeply ashamed to say that, as someone who opposes the death penalty.
posted by SPrintF at 10:41 AM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'd gladly put a bullet in this young man's head, and I am deeply ashamed to say that, as someone who opposes the death penalty.

And this is why we do these things in courtrooms. I really feel you, SPrintF, and because I understand how you feel, and have often felt it myself, I think the concept of criminal justice SHOULD be a way for us to temper our most vengeful instincts and work to build a more functional society. But instead we just use it as a state sanctioned version of petty revenge, and it's a god damned shame.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:43 AM on May 16, 2015 [17 favorites]


I guess the death penalty is the Christian thing to do.

countries which permit the death penalty include China, Japan, India, Iran, Iraq. Don't recall any of them embracing Jesus and his teachings.
posted by philip-random at 11:03 AM on May 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Well in this case, then, the point is moot. If certain victims will be aided, certain others will be hindered in their healing, it should not be used as an argument either for or against an execution.

What bothers me about this situation is WHO this guy attacked. He just arbitrarily marked people celebrating near the end of a athletic event. And it wasn't just some dinky softball game with 30 people in attendance. He picked one of the most prestigious and highly attended events in the world.

And he bombed.

Forget you and me talking about why he did it, or sitting down and chatting him up in prison for being such an awesome terrorist, forget all that. What about the people who are wondering why this has happened? Why it happened to THEM? I mean there is no real answer. There was no reason why those people were attacked that day.

Death penalty isn't something that is applied fairly in the US, and thats if one even considers it fair. But it has been given down by a valid court of law. So right now, the assessment that has lead to my opinion of it being a fair execution is this:

Will the people who have had to, and WILL have to endure the aftermath of this criminal's acts be caused more relief than pain by the execution of this criminal?

I think the answer is a big yes.

I think forgiveness is awesome. There are people who can forgive someone who brutally raped and killed their mother. I think that should always be taken into consideration when sentencing, and it should prevent an execution from happening.

But that isn't the case here. The word "terrorist" has been changed to mean anybody carrying too much shampoo through Des Moine. But it actually is a horrible crime. Murder is bad because you kill someONE. An act of terrorism hurts several. As lame as I think that 'boston strong' shit is, they actually believe it. Some people went through some fucked up shit not knowing if they were going to die or not, even when they were not in any real danger. We all talk about how bad words on metafilter cause people to have panic attacks and makes this online forum an unsafe place; terrorism is worse. It hurts people, they get affected.


All i have to offer is that the destruction of the Boston Marathon affected me deeply. Such a deliberate destruction of human life at its most joyful moment! I'd gladly put a bullet in this young man's head, and I am deeply ashamed to say that, as someone who opposes the death penalty.

This does not make sense to me. And rather than poking holes in the obvious contradicting statements, we should see this as an effect of the act of terrorism. I'm sorry it hit you so hard. I don't think your feelings are wrong or invalid. I hope you receive the peace you need by the fact that he has been convicted and will die by the state's hands and not yours.



Except for the published study I linked containing actual data and a literature review.

Ugh. I seriously don't want to turn this discussion into an armchair academic discussion about the validity of people's feelings. Just talk to somebody. BUT, the dude who I linked to is:

Dr. Harold J. Bursztajn is the co-founder of Harvard Medical School’s Program in Psychiatry and the Law, based at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. A psychiatrist, he has a special interest in the treatment of patients after massive psychic trauma, including the Holocaust.

I'm almost certain that his background is legit despite the fact that he's not a commenter on metafilter. And perhaps he may have his name on a paper or two about the exact thing he talked about.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:04 AM on May 16, 2015


Phillip random - This is almost totally irrelevant to the thread but Jesus is actually a very important figure in Islam
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:05 AM on May 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


Phillip random - This is almost totally irrelevant to the thread but Jesus is actually a very important figure in Islam

I'm a muslim not running for office, and I endorse showbiz_liz's statement.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:07 AM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm fascinated to read many comments in this thread that say something like, "I'm opposed to the death penalty except in this case" (my paraphrase, into exact words). If you wrote something like that then you're not actually against the death penalty, and it's not just a semantic game: there are situations where you feel that death is an appropriate punishment. That's not an anti capital punishment stance, it's a pro capital punishment one. I'm absolutely opposed to the death penalty, and if Bin Laden had surrendered and been captured alive I'd still stand in opposition to capital punishment.
posted by wintermind at 11:27 AM on May 16, 2015 [24 favorites]


From watching reports as to the prosecution's approach, they made it quite clear that Tsarnaev placed the explosive right next to a child, looked around deliberately, walked away and detonated. That callousness is what I believe pushed the jury to the sentence.
posted by sammyo at 11:30 AM on May 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


[One comment deleted; I understand why people are inclined to go there, but let's not veer off onto bin Laden. Plenty to talk about in the actual case.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:30 AM on May 16, 2015


I'm fascinated to read many comments in this thread that say something like, "I'm opposed to the death penalty except in this case" (my paraphrase, into exact words). If you wrote something like that then you're not actually against the death penalty, and it's not just a semantic game: there are situations where you feel that death is an appropriate punishment.

I was not one of those people. However, I think you're missing another option. One can be politically, philosophically and mentally opposed to something and yet experience an emotion that is not consistent with that view. For example, I might be opposed to vandalism but in a moment of rage hit a car if the driver turned right without checking their blind spot. Not because I think it's ok to hit cars. Not that I think "in this case, damaging his car is an appropriate punishment" just that hey, I was going about my business crossing the street and some ass decided to ignore the law, show reckless disregard for my safety, and nearly run me over. I'm mad and so I hit the car, even though I don't think it's ok to damage people's cars.

I can certainly imagine that people who feel very affected or hurt by this event might experience an emotion that is not in keeping with their actual beliefs or views. The Amish town that forgave the guy who killed their children comes to mind -- if one of those parents had remained angry would you say they didn't really believe in forgiveness? If they'd punched the murderer, that they're not really pacifists? Most of us at one time or another are not the people we hope to be.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 11:38 AM on May 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm almost certain that his background is legit despite the fact that he's not a commenter on metafilter. And perhaps he may have his name on a paper or two about the exact thing he talked about.

You said all the evidence was opinion; I linked to data. If you can do the same, do so. Otherwise, you're not really presenting commensurate sources.

I don't expect to change your feelings on the issue, but I certainly think it's fair to distinguish feelings from peer-reviewed data.
posted by kewb at 11:41 AM on May 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


I guess the death penalty is the Christian thing to do.
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord.
Totally Christian here.
posted by Talez at 11:47 AM on May 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I can certainly imagine that people who feel very affected or hurt by this event might experience an emotion that is not in keeping with their actual beliefs or views.

Okay, but we're supposed to recognize when we're in an unreasonable state and not make it part of a discussion, because discussions are about beliefs and views, not emotions that we ourselves might acknowledge as unreasonable, i.e. emotions that are basically outside of the realm of meaningful discourse. This is analogous to the fact that (ideally) juries provide verdicts on the basis of, basically, beliefs and views (ideally supported by fact), and not on the basis of feelings. This is why, e.g. the victim of a crime should not serve on the jury in that particular case.

If someone says "I feel a strong vindictive emotion toward the perpetrator, but I still don't think we should kill him, because my beliefs and views about justice, ethics, social practicality etc. happen to trump my vindictive emotions", then they are genuinely opposed to capital punishment. If they say, basically, "My belief that capital punishment is wrong is insufficient to overcome my vindictive feelings in this case," then they are not, in fact, opposed to capital punishment. They are opposed to capital punishment in situations where their emotional investment is low, which is fairly meaningless opposition.
posted by busted_crayons at 11:50 AM on May 16, 2015 [12 favorites]


Phillip random - This is almost totally irrelevant to the thread but Jesus is actually a very important figure in Islam

fair enough.

Let me then point out the permissible death penalty in Bangladesh, China, Cuba, Japan (again), China (again), North Korea, Thailand*. My overall point being that it's lazy to suggest, " ... I guess the death penalty is the Christian thing to do." What's more is it gets in the way of examining what's similar to those cultures which do permit it.

* a quick Google reveals that Thailand is 1.3 percent Christian. Why is it always the 1 percent?
posted by philip-random at 11:54 AM on May 16, 2015


“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
How different would society be if we showed our understanding rather than our desire for vengeance. And I don't ask that question facetiously. What if we took every person who wronged society for whatever reason, fixed the stupid shit that's obviously wrong with their lives and then let them live the rest of their lives in peace?

Would this be a better society? A better world?

Why don't we do this? Why don't we look at deeper problems? Why do we always insist that people have theoretically infinite amounts of resolve to live in society? I'd ask if it's just too difficult but I fear that question would be rhetorical.
posted by Talez at 11:55 AM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


If (big if!) there's a valid use of the death penalty, surely it's as retribution for acts of terrorism, war crimes, and genocide.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:55 AM on May 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


I am opposed to the death penalty in all situations. I think it is applied in racist, classist ways; I think it violates the 8th Amendment; I think there are serious issues around the general conservativism of death penalty juries; it's more expensive and sucks up more resources than life in prison... yeah. I'm not okay with the death penalty, but that's not what I want to add here.

That other things about the American criminal justice system are more messed up does not make this okay. There's lots to dislike and lots to want to fix.

When we treat people as though they are not human, we become less human ourselves.

If you want to make it about making the victims or their families feel better, that's what civil court is for.
posted by bile and syntax at 12:00 PM on May 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


So does the fact that the outcome was controlled by a nonrepresentative jury suggest that some part of Massachusetts law needs updating? And if so, which part or parts?
posted by polymodus at 12:01 PM on May 16, 2015


So during the bombing, I worked on Beacon Hill in Boston. One of my employees was caught between the two blasts. She was there to wait for her father, who was running the race.

She was not hurt. She ran from one explosion to the second. She saw multiple people cut down by shrapnel. She did not know where her dad was. I can only imagine the terror from the panicked description of why she needed time off (granted in spades).

This was a willful, two person act. It affected many more people. He may not reoffend, but even though I am against the death penalty on paper, I do not think he should be given the chance.

It would be a worse punishment for him to live the rest of his life in the dark hole he deserves.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 12:06 PM on May 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


The dude demonstrated no remorse. I'm OK with executing monsters.

Remorsefully, one would assume.
posted by biffa at 12:07 PM on May 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


And as to remorse: do you think Sister Prejean is just straight up lying?

Who cares? Some things are bad enough that they shouldn't be forgiven. Feeling sorry won't make it not have happened.

That's not a reason to kill him; but his feelings or the Sister's feelings are irrelevant.
posted by winna at 12:08 PM on May 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


So does the fact that the outcome was controlled by a nonrepresentative jury suggest that some part of Massachusetts law needs updating? And if so, which part or parts?

Its not a "non-representative jury". From what I understand (please correct me if I am wrong), they didn't choose a jury that would give him the death penalty. When questioning potential jury members, they asked whether they are against the death penalty. The reason for this is simple:

This crime carried the possible punishment of death. If a jury member knows that a guilty verdict will lead to a conviction, which will lead to a death sentence, they will NOT return with a guilty verdict.

I could be 100% wrong here, but this is my understanding of why it was necessary to filter the jury.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:13 PM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


So you kill this kid. This kid dies a martyr. Fundamentalists use the brothers to recruit more people and since we continue to act in our own selfish interest in the homes of others the radicalization easily continues. More people try to plan revenge attacks in retribution. We catch, imprison and possibly kill them too. Kill some infidels, kill the fundamentalists, start the process over. Kill some Jews, kill some Arabs, start the process over. Kill some Christians, kill the Muslim who killed the Christians, start the process over.

Where does it fucking end? Where does this cycle fucking end? When "our side" finally annihilate all that might possibly have a grievance with us? When "our side" finally annihilate all that have developed grievances with us as "collateral damage" while we annihilate those who have the original grievances with us?

Where does the violence fucking end after this kid is dead? Someone tell me. In this continual chain of vengeance, where does the fucking violence eventually end?
posted by Talez at 12:13 PM on May 16, 2015 [17 favorites]


So does the fact that the outcome was controlled by a nonrepresentative jury suggest that some part of Massachusetts law needs updating? And if so, which part or parts?

It suggests that federal law needs updating, no? Actually, what does the phrase "jury of one's peers" actually mean? Have there ever been verdicts contested on the basis that the jury did not constitute a jury of the defendant's peers? A little bit of searching indicates that this is interpreted extremely loosely (one is not entitled to a jury that accurately reflects larger society, but potential jurors can't be excluded on the basis of race and gender, is all I'm finding), and this seems fairly problematic, especially in capital cases where people categorically opposed to the death penalty are excluded from jury service.

but even though I am against the death penalty on paper

Since (I think) the rest of your comment indicates that you favour the death penalty in this case, what does the above-quoted text mean, exactly?
posted by busted_crayons at 12:14 PM on May 16, 2015


Where does the violence fucking end after this kid is dead? Someone tell me. In this continual chain of vengeance, where does the fucking violence eventually end?

I don't care what your religion (or lack of) may be. An-eye-for-an-eye died with Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
posted by philip-random at 12:18 PM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


This crime carried the possible punishment of death. If a jury member knows that a guilty verdict will lead to a conviction, which will lead to a death sentence, they will NOT return with a guilty verdict.

Isn't it the same jury that does the sentencing? So a juror opposed to the death penalty could vote to convict secure in the knowledge that they can effectively veto the death penalty.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 12:19 PM on May 16, 2015


Cantabrigian here - heard the bombs go off, saw the smoke, get gas where that guy got out of his SUV, Sean Collier was killed around the corner from me. Everything that happened happened within about 5 miles of my house. I have a photo of the deserted streets when we were on "lock down."

All I want to say is that Carmen Ortiz & the Feds should have plead this guy out last year to no trial and life in prison w/o parole. And honestly the only reason I don't think she did is so that she can advance her political career - she's sent people to death row after all!!!

Nothing is going to bring those folks back, reattach limbs, or end any of the suffering caused by those two.
posted by Farce_First at 12:21 PM on May 16, 2015 [16 favorites]


From watching reports as to the prosecution's approach, they made it quite clear that Tsarnaev placed the explosive right next to a child, looked around deliberately, walked away and detonated. That callousness is what I believe pushed the jury to the sentence.

I have no connection to the Boston area. I am usually opposed to the death penalty because of its overapplication against the poor and minorities. I'm not surprised that it was chosen here, and I'm not that upset about it, either, because of the circumstances described above.
posted by onlyconnect at 12:40 PM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


hal_c_on said something earlier that basically said that if some of the victims or their families want the death penalty carried out and some don't, that's reason enough to impose a death sentence.

I ask why? Why should the baser compulsions of fallible humans take precedence? Even if I accept that the death penalty is made reasonable because it somehow makes victims whole, what about the group of victims who don't want the death penalty? Isn't it equally possible that they will be harmed by its imposition? Personally, I'd not deal well with the idea that someone was killed in my name. I presume that there exist others who share the same outlook, even if there aren't many of us.

Why does the irreversible bloodlust of some in the group get the privilege of taking precedence over the views of others in the group?

In reality, I don't find the feelings of the victims or their families relevant when it comes to determining punishment. Criminal Justice is not for them. Their wants and desires are beside the point. We are a nation of laws, not of vengeance. While it would be totally understandable if a family member of a victim shot Tsarnaev, it would still be murder. The supposed closure it would provide is irrelevant.
posted by wierdo at 12:43 PM on May 16, 2015 [10 favorites]


Its not a "non-representative jury". From what I understand (please correct me if I am wrong), they didn't choose a jury that would give him the death penalty. When questioning potential jury members, they asked whether they are against the death penalty.

60% of Massachusettsians are against the death penalty in all circumstances. Any jury in Mass which excludes death penalty opponents is de facto non-representative of the population of the commonwealth since it automatically excludes a majority of that population.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 12:54 PM on May 16, 2015 [12 favorites]


What's been sad and distressing in Boston recently is how few public figures or anyone in the media feel they can speak out against this. 85% of people in Boston oppose the death penalty in this case. A large percentage of the victims' families oppose it, as do many of the columnists, politicians, radio hosts, local legal experts, etc. Yet as the two articles in today's NYT make clear, not only is there a lot of ambivalence, but many of the victims' own families feel like they can't speak out against this. And that's a reasonable enough fear. The one thing we can be sure of is that this decision will not bring closure. The divisions in this very thread make that clear. The vast majority of his "peers" reject the death penalty, and have had it shoved down their throats by a federal policy and jury selection system that is not remotely "of his peers". Perhaps that is just and legal, but it is surely not unifying, and does not bring closure. This will exist in the courts for years if not decades, and the fragile bonds that the families of the victims have forged between each other in the aftermath are going to be torn to pieces as those latent disagreements rise to the surface. Boston has now embarked on years of debate, of listening to death penalty advocates recite the horrors of the bombing again and again in order to move their opponents to the righteous rage they advocate, and if you think the arguments have gotten personal in on this webpage, you should see what is going to happen in Boston over the next few years. I've seen a variety of local news hosts drag themselves through the horrible sentencing phase of the trial, doing their best to ignore the fact that its entire purpose was to recite horrors in order to move 12 people to kill a man; I've watched them dance around their revulsion at this process (a revulsion shared by 85% of the population) for weeks. And now they, and all Bostonians, are going to be forced to repeat this process, over and over for years to come. This is no closure.
posted by chortly at 12:58 PM on May 16, 2015 [11 favorites]


In reality, I don't find the feelings of the victims or their families relevant when it comes to determining punishment. Criminal Justice is not for them. Their wants and desires are beside the point. We are a nation of laws, not of vengeance. While it would be totally understandable if a family member of a victim shot Tsarnaev, it would still be murder. The supposed closure it would provide is irrelevant.

QFT.

Can someone who is not opposed to capital punishment explain which practical, measurable goals are advanced by an execution that are not better pursued by other means?

I feel no compassion at all for Tsarnaev. Actually, I feel only minor compassion for most people, unless my attention is being drawn to them for some reason, and I submit that everyone else functions similarly. This is why we have ethics and laws, which help us to harness the better angels of our intellect so that we can act as though we are experiencing sympathetic emotions even when we are not.

There is literally nothing that one can do for the dead, so they should not even factor into the moral reckoning. They are dead. There is a great deal that should be done for the bereaved, exactly none of the specifics of which has anything to do with how a criminal case is handled. There is a great deal of practical stuff to be done for the injured, again all unrelated to how the perpetrator is dealt with. The only interest the bereaved and the injured have in how the perpetrator is handled is exactly the same interest the rest of us have, which is mitigating any future threat that the perpetrator may pose, and (in cases where it is possible) helping the perpetrator re-integrate. Anything more is barbarism. We may feel like something nastier is warranted, but those feelings are our responsibility and our problem, and perhaps society's problem, but they are not the criminal legal system's problem and should not be its motivation.

Actually, it's not so clear that punishment accomplishes practical goals at all. I understand the desire to prevent certain people from causing further damage, and some sort of imprisonment seems in principle able to accomplish that, but I don't see why punishment should be an explicit goal (unless one both plans to release the offender and has evidence that punishment is likely to prevent recidivism in that case). What clearly articulable end is served by punishment?

I think there isn't one, and the explanation for the continued emphasis on punishment is some combination of the persistence of shitty traditions (a consequence of mass laziness) and the fact that it's hard to collectively control nasty impulses when they're widely shared.
posted by busted_crayons at 1:06 PM on May 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


The dude demonstrated no remorse. I'm OK with executing monsters.

Remorsefully, one would assume.


I expect any trial juror would take their task very seriously. Sending a terrorist off to die ain't like bakin' Sunday pie.
posted by uraniumwilly at 1:13 PM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't have any sympathy for him, but holybagel is correct when he says that executing him will only make him a martyr for other fanatics. Let him rot in prison.
posted by jonmc at 1:14 PM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Can someone who is not opposed to capital punishment explain which practical, measurable goals are advanced by an execution that are not better pursued by other means?"

It rids society of those who desire to destroy. Ideally, he'd be executed shortlybeing sentenced.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:23 PM on May 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I am relatively neutral on the death penalty. It would be punishment enough to have him in the general prison population of an ADX facility, maybe with some tough biker gang members in for murder as his neighbors. I don't think Tsarnaev would be too happy under those conditions.
posted by theorique at 1:25 PM on May 16, 2015


" I see no other solution to the case other than that he be put down."

"Maybe being put down so you can't hurt anyone else is in the best interests of the the rest of us."


That's what we are calling it now?
posted by JackFlash at 1:46 PM on May 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm sorry but I don't buy the idea that he will be martyred and a rallying point for terrorists any more than his brother, also killed at the hands of the state, has been. Recruiters surely don't need all that many more reasons to stir up hate against the US.
I do buy the argument that the death penalty is problematic historically because there is a question in some cases of the right man being executed, or a mentally ill person being executed. Neither of those seems to apply here.
The society we live in kills people every day for a host of reasons that I find more objectionable than a case where a jury has been presented with the evidence and decided that the penalty for this crime should be the most extreme.
posted by OHenryPacey at 1:52 PM on May 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


It rids society of those who desire to destroy.

Except the state-sanctioned destroyers. Those ones are OK.
posted by mistersquid at 1:56 PM on May 16, 2015 [18 favorites]


If only I had a penguin..., like everyone I struggle to reflect my beliefs in my actions, and I'm certainly not perfect. However, it seems to me that there's a difference between having a strong emotional response to something in the moment that is at odds with a person's stated philosophy, and arguing that something contrary to those principles is somehow in accord with those principles long after the fact.
posted by wintermind at 2:26 PM on May 16, 2015



It would be punishment enough to have him in the general prison population of an ADX facility, maybe with some tough biker gang members in for murder as his neighbors.
A prison in Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Texas or Utah perhaps?
posted by Death and Gravity at 2:30 PM on May 16, 2015


For me, I always thought there was a story behind criminal behavior. In general though not always, it seems there's some kind of story to most of the people I know who have been most abusive. I think,if anything I had a harder time understanding those who do feel a powerful sense of rage at criminals and a desire to harm or execute them. I did see such people as "deliberately" cruel in a way that I gave more of a pass to criminals for. With criminals, "there must be a reason" but with people who kill criminals, they must be DELIBERATELY violent. I now think they too have their own story, and perhaps a very important purpose in our survival as humans. There have been many times and places in history where there really wasn't enough food to feed a bunch of dangerous criminals EVEN IF the criminals were not at fault for their behavior.

I see in the classroom with toddlers there is often at least a few kids with an overdeveloped sense of justice even at that age. You see one frequently coming to the defense of other kids in distress. One kid steals a toy and The Defender arrives and says "Don't do that!" and pushes them over grabbing the toy back and handing it to the kid crying without their toy. I think there is something kind of pure when you see this just arise natural out of human nature. Of course, frequently these kids who defend are more comfortable than average using force for more selfish reasons too, but I also think once you unleash the willingness to harm for x good reason it unfortunately because easier to do for y crappy reason as well.

I don't support the death penalty-- I think we will find higher levels of peace in society when we treat prisoners well, reduce the use of imprisonment to dangerous/violent behavior; treat animals well and move toward vegetarianism and peaceful treatment of any living being REGARDLESS of how impressive it's skills/intelligence are or even the quality of it's very character. If we do this we will begin to unravel the arguments people are using to justify violence and harms to humans, if we argue that purely by being a living being- evenwithout qualifying as some of the higher expectations we have of human intellect or behavior, we STILL don't mistreat/harm/kill living beings. It will lay the foundation of a more peaceful society.

However we are not there yet and I like as some buddhists say "the middle path" where we recognize practicing ahimsa from where we are now where violence is normalized into the fabric of human life and life on this planet itself- we will have to face that it's a slow path to peace and often inaction in the name of pacifism can result in MORE suffering, not less for innocent beings. I honor those who are willing to take on the damage to their soul of carrying out violence for the sake of peace- and I acknoledge that in doing so they often unleash forces that get out of their control.

Forces that now linger in the human spirit from the deeds our ancestors needed to carry out and now come forth even at times they aren't needed- but that might not be bad traits to have still alive in at least a few humans because, just in case, in dark times those traits will often be what means survival for anyone at all. I have come to a place that I feel peace towards those who think violence is needed, and I understand it. I still hope that in seeing situations we may "need" violence that we would seek to understand why those situations arise, what the deeper issues are, and learn to transcend situations that bring about such a need.

I think we will be the better for ending the death penalty-- I think we are coming closer to it. I think the cycles of violence are still churning within us, and like with an addiction one tries to taper off slowly sooner or later it's time to just stop- because we have grown powerful enough to protect the innocent through other means than tyranny and fear which generates repercussions.

If we are practicing this passive turning of the other cheek and watching injustice rule until it feels like stopping, then after all we must also sit around watching the people who fight against injustice with violence do so until they feel like stopping. Then again I think that single teaching of Jesus's is responsible for so much enabling of horrific abuses that I no longer think it should fit in with teaching on compassion and human rights/welfare issues. The messiah was supposed to enact the messianic age, times of peace and plenty and enlightenment of beings. He didn't bring it.

Waiting for the wolf to live in peace with the lamb while watching the slaughter "peacefully" in the meantime does not seem to be an effective means of lessening the lust for the delicacy of slaughter in the animal or the human condition. I think we will need more active means of generating peace, but that contains mercy for the state of the predators and the level of torture, famine, and suffering that has been inherent to life on this planet, driving beings even who desire peace the direction of horrible behaviors, leaving marks deep withing our very urges that come out in ways we might not want.

We have the kid caught. If he's permanently imprisoned, he's not acting again. I won't say I don't see some merit in some of the arguments for use of the death penalty-- and I don't think badly of those who think it's still necessary-- I just hope that soon, our species continues to evolve the direction of peace and we transcend the need for violence and early death at the hands of our people. I now think that asking pure forgiveness of anyone harmed by horrifying crimes is another form harm carried out on them, disrespecting the healthy process of moving through or even maintaining anger or the healthy desire for distance and safety from people capable of atrocity- and for the support of their communities when it comes to living with difficult emotions that may be lifelong for people affected by horrible criminal acts against them or their loved ones.

I don't think the death penalty will fix this. Neither will "forgiving" heal all the wounds for survivors.
posted by xarnop at 3:13 PM on May 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


After all the talk of how isolation is effectively torture, a death sentence almost seems merciful. (I don't personally support either.) Here's a description of the prison conditions Tsarnaev faces.
posted by salvia at 3:18 PM on May 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


busted_crayons: "If someone says "I feel a strong vindictive emotion toward the perpetrator, but I still don't think we should kill him, because my beliefs and views about justice, ethics, social practicality etc. happen to trump my vindictive emotions", then they are genuinely opposed to capital punishment. If they say, basically, "My belief that capital punishment is wrong is insufficient to overcome my vindictive feelings in this case," then they are not, in fact, opposed to capital punishment. They are opposed to capital punishment in situations where their emotional investment is low, which is fairly meaningless opposition."

sammyo: "From watching reports as to the prosecution's approach, they made it quite clear that Tsarnaev placed the explosive right next to a child, looked around deliberately, walked away and detonated. That callousness is what I believe pushed the jury to the sentence."

I've always been against the death penalty and I oppose it in this case as well, but this rotten little fucker has really put my beliefs to the test. Like it or not, bloodlust is part of human nature. It can be difficult, even painful, to deny that desire but bloodlust has never been a good reason to kill anyone.
posted by double block and bleed at 4:02 PM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


A prison in Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Texas or Utah perhaps?

Perfect! Any place where he would, in the words of Marsellus Wallace (Pulp Fiction) "spend the rest of his short-ass life in agonizing pain". I'm sure some brutal, incarcerated American Patriots would be happy to oblige with a little extrajudicial activity on this guy.
posted by theorique at 4:04 PM on May 16, 2015


"To decide that a man must be definitively punished is to deny him any further opportunity whatsoever to make reparation for his acts... This right to live that coincides with the opportunity for reparation is the natural right of every man, even the worst... Without this right, the moral life is strictly impossible." Camus
posted by Dalby at 4:18 PM on May 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


If we are practicing this passive turning of the other cheek and watching injustice rule until it feels like stopping, then after all we must also sit around watching the people who fight against injustice with violence do so until they feel like stopping. Then again I think that single teaching of Jesus's is responsible for so much enabling of horrific abuses that I no longer think it should fit in with teaching on compassion and human rights/welfare issues. The messiah was supposed to enact the messianic age, times of peace and plenty and enlightenment of beings. He didn't bring it.

Then you completely missed the point of the sermon.

The point of the sermon isn't to be passive in the face of those that would otherwise hurt you. Nothing could be further from the truth. It's to stand up to that person and say "I will meet the needs that you feel the need to harm for. Now what's really wrong? What's making you act like this?". To actually show empathy instead of faux sympathy and make a real, human connection that these people almost always lack.
posted by Talez at 4:33 PM on May 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


some brutal, incarcerated American Patriots

I expect that's one reason he'll be isolated, the justice department probably looses points when a high profile offender's punishment is cut short by extra judicial methods. At least until he drops off the network news feeds, which would be a really long time in this case.
posted by sammyo at 4:35 PM on May 16, 2015


How could he possibly make reparation for his acts? Apologies to the families could not make reparations. Spending the rest of his life dedicated to remorseful thought and contemplation would not make reparations to those families. What could he possibly do?

He killed kids. He deliberately put the bomb next to a group of small kids, looked at it, walked away and exploded it next to those kids. I am normally against the death penalty because it is often applied discriminatorily, but I'm not against it here. I do not feel sorry for him. He made a choice that I can only describe as evil.

I'm not sure I personally would have voted for the death penalty in his case, but I am not upset that 12 people from Boston voted for it.
posted by onlyconnect at 4:36 PM on May 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


How could he possibly make reparation for his acts?

How can any of us make reparation for any act of evil no matter how trivial? If I go up and punch you in the face. No broken bones, minor bruising at best, maybe a black eye; What would be reparations for that? Things that we say in error, anger, passion? They cannot be unsaid. All we can do is beg for forgiveness and hope there is some way, any way that we can display contrition and conduct penance that would enable the wronged person to feel content at the resolution.

The whole point of any sort of contrition is that many of the errors in judgement that we make we cannot make things whole again simply because we literally cannot go back into the past and alter that moment.
posted by Talez at 5:01 PM on May 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


""I will meet the needs that you feel the need to harm for. Now what's really wrong? What's making you act like this?"

Yeah no I actually did exactly that for a number of very disturbed men (did so for women too and it worked out fine, women seem to actually get better when supported-- disturbed men do not need soft gentle women offering themselves up as punching bags or assault victims in order to heal their past wounds) and there was no good came to them or me for it. Just slow horrifying destruction and more horrific deeds they are left to face on their own hands.

I generally agree with the concept don't get me wrong, I still agree with providing resources and understanding causes of behavior I just also believe in doing so with protections in place for personal safety NOT just holding out a cheek and letting people beat you while you offer them hugs and cookies and a shoulder to talk to about their feelings.

It's funny because women are encouraged to do this kind of hand holding for broken men, then after they are destroyed and assaulted suddenly the whole community says "Oh you should have left! SHAME on you for staying and offering another cheek and support to a dangerous person in need!"

If the sermon means the opposite of what it says you're supposed to know it secretly means to run away and NOT offer another cheek, then it's a pretty bad sermon.

I just get tired of the way women get overwhelming expected to carry forgiveness for everyone, to be accepting and gentle and loving of criminals and HELP them when in need instead of running away from the danger-- and then when they take these teachings to heart they are shamed for it and told they should have known better. The teachings meant never go near dangerous people like that, duh! Survivor anger is often used to shame them for "hurting themselves" and not healing themselves through forgiveness and I guess I jsut sometimes think well intentioned teachings on absolute pacifism and absolute unconditional acceptance of people no matter what they are doing gets really harmful in its own way.

I am still opposed to the death penalty but I support self defense and situationally (like in times of societal chaos where life in prison wasn't an option) I would understand people using it.
posted by xarnop at 5:01 PM on May 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm generally opposed to the death penalty, but not here

So in other words, you support the death penalty.

Seriously, this is filling me with rage right now because it is dishonest and it is cowardly. If you are going to support the organized killing of people and publicly comment upon that support, at least have the guts to admit it.
posted by likeatoaster at 5:05 PM on May 16, 2015 [19 favorites]


I just get tired of the way women get overwhelming expected to carry forgiveness for everyone, to be accepting and gentle and loving of criminals and HELP them when in need instead of running away from the danger-- and then when they take these teachings to heart they are shamed for it and told they should have known better. The teachings meant never go near dangerous people like that, duh! Survivor anger is often used to shame them for "hurting themselves" and not healing themselves through forgiveness and I guess I jsut sometimes think well intentioned teachings on absolute pacifism and absolute unconditional acceptance of people no matter what they are doing gets really harmful in its own way.

It's not about carrying forgiveness though. People keep assuming there's a dichotomy between punishment and empathy when it's completely false. Would you rather a rapist be thrown in for 8 to 15 into a hellhole, problems left unresolved and then let back out to just rape again because fuck him, he's a rapist? Or would you rather the rapist be thrown into a stable, safe environment for 8 to 15, his problems worked through, his obvious issues addressed, his situation made stable in the event of his release and become a productive member of society who probably won't rape again?

Without addressing the true problem we do future potential victims a disservice because we had that chance but instead we demanded they truly pay for their crimes and denied the offender any help whatsoever.
posted by Talez at 5:10 PM on May 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


How could he possibly make reparation for his acts? Apologies to the families could not make reparations. Spending the rest of his life dedicated to remorseful thought and contemplation would not make reparations to those families. What could he possibly do?

Nothing. Usually, even when nobody dies, there is no possibility of making reparations, of restoring the universe to one in which it is as though the crime had not taken place. What bearing does this have on whether or not to kill* the perpetrator of a crime?

For example, suppose that I'm foolish and keep all of the fruits of my entire life's creative efforts on a single hard disk. Suppose that you, with malice aforethought, knowing the importance of this data to me -- knowing that it vastly exceeds the cost of a replacement hard disk, or any sum of money, knowing that I have devoted enormous time, effort, and emotional energy to producing the contents of that hard disk -- suppose you steal it, overwrite its contents with "HURFDURFBUTTEREATER" billions of times, and then drive over it with a semi truck. What are the appropriate reparations in that case, and, if none are possible, should you be killed?

*The euphemistic use of "put down" in this thread is quite disgusting.
posted by busted_crayons at 5:10 PM on May 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


[One comment deleted. Please refrain from animal analogies in a context where the dehumanizing aspect is already hotly contested.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 5:10 PM on May 16, 2015


I think the problem is that this really flares up the whole 'what is the point of prison?' If it's rehabilitative - a life sentence says that rehabilitation will not be achieved. So at that point, a life in prison seems designed to draw out the torture, rather than the mercy of a swift death. I know that in those circumstances, I would prefer the swift death, personally. And if it's vengeance, punishment driven - then shouldn't it be satisfied with a death rather than keeping him alive just to torture?
posted by corb at 5:15 PM on May 16, 2015


The death penalty is barbaric. Killing people is a wrong solution. Not killing people is a more evolved choice. Pretty sure I couldn't be on a jury because I am absolutely opposed to it. The only reason I can drum up for it in this case is that terrorists may be more affected by saber-rattling on our part. I have some idea that we might be better off talking tough about ISIS instead of being reasonable.

Tsarnaev was and is a competent adult. The US shows too much willingness to try children as adults and to sentence to death children and the mentally ill/ incompetent. It's especially appalling. He seems immature, but he made a conscious decision to assist his brother and to place bombs, and he has to have understood that he was committing mass killings. I don't know what the specifics were of the killing of the MBTA cop and his brother, but this is not a peaceable fellow.

I feel especially pissed off at the Tsarnaev brothers because the US gave them refuge, they became citizens, and then attacked.
posted by theora55 at 5:17 PM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Hey, I only mentioned reparations because Darby quoted Camus, saying the person who committed the crime should not be killed because they needed the chance to make reparations.

Certainly there are offenses you CAN make reparations for. If you take money, you apologize and return it many times over. If you say something offensive, you educate yourself as to why it was hurtful, make a full apology, and go forth and educate others about similar offenses. But I don't see how anyone could make reparations for killing children. So I don't think the Camus passage applies here.

Given the trophy that he would likely become in prison for abuse by other inmates and staff, in a way I think it is possible that the death penalty may be more compassionate, in application, in this case.
posted by onlyconnect at 5:18 PM on May 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


After all the talk of how isolation is effectively torture, a death sentence almost seems merciful.

How often do you hear prisoners on death row begging for a merciful death?
posted by JackFlash at 5:19 PM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


"People keep assuming there's a dichotomy between punishment and empathy when it's completely false."

That's not what the teaching says. The teaching doesn't say "if someone slaps you lovingly put them in a rehabilitative program where they can't hurt anyone." It says OFFER THE OTHER CHEEK. It doesn't even say to walk away peacefully without retaliating. It says to keep accepting the harm until the other person feels like stopping and give them anything they ask for.

I think what you have inserted into the teaching sounds great but it's not actually there in the teaching.

Anyway, maybe we could chat more by memail if you're interested, I think while related somewhat to the topic at hand this may be turning into a side conversation...
posted by xarnop at 5:20 PM on May 16, 2015


Maybe the question of what Jesus's teaching says is not really relevant to this, as despite the best efforts of, you know, Alabama, we are not actually a Christian theocracy.
posted by corb at 5:22 PM on May 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


Certainly there are offenses you CAN make reparations for.

That's irrelevant. You asserted that the impossibility of reparations provides some (perhaps partial) argument for execution in such cases. Cases where reparations are possible are irrelevant.

Is impossibility of reparations necessary, or sufficient, for a justified execution? Both? Neither?

If you take money, you apologize and return it many times over. If you say something offensive, you educate yourself as to why it was hurtful, make a full apology, and go forth and educate others about similar offenses.

One of these things is not like the other.
posted by busted_crayons at 5:24 PM on May 16, 2015


I'm sure some brutal, incarcerated American Patriots would be happy to oblige with a little extrajudicial activity on this guy.

Seems to me that being gleeful at the notion of criminal behaviour being visited against someone is a) utterly failing to understand why we have a criminal justice system in the first place, and b) pretty damn gross. It's being happy about the oxymoron that is vigilante justice, and what's worse, it's being happy about vigilante justice being meted out after a lawful verdict has already been rendered. We have a justice system precisely because vigilantism is barbaric.

Execution isn't a deterrent; if it were there wouldn't be anyone sentenced to death. It's not a punishment; once you're dead you're gone and there's no you to understand being punished--the only punishment comes in the years and years before you die, knowing that unlike most people you have a set date and time for your death. It's not cheaper; the very finality of the act necessitates the long sequence of appeals. It's inherently flawed; innocent people are executed.

It's vengeance, only. And we're better than that. The fact that he isn't better than that is no reason to stoop to his level. Even if Tsarnaev can't be rehabilitated to the point where he can be returned to society (and I have my doubts about that), keeping him alive could potentially allow him to learn--even if behind bars--about the magnitude of his behaviour.

His actions don't test my beliefs, because literally nothing can shake my belief that even if I personally want someone dead, that is a purely emotional reaction and not one that leads to the betterment of society.

Criminal justice is only tangentially about the specific victims; it is about the damage done to society. Of the damage that Tsarnaev and his brother did to society, what will be repaired by strapping him to a gurney and injecting poison into his arm? Quite possibly poorly administered, leaving him to suffer and die horribly? Who benefits from that? Nobody.

On top of all that, it's been discussed around here more than once how brains aren't fully mature until one's mid-twenties. In that light, calling him a 'competent adult' seems suspect at best.

And to return to something that was handwaved away earlier in the thread; yes, in fact, major criminals do talk to doctors and psychiatrists and criminologists about why and how they have done what they have done. It's the entire basis behind criminal profiling, it's part of VICAP (and similar programs outside the USA), and the utility of those kinds of jailhouse interviews has been known for decades. Not that whether he individually will be useful for, or receptive to, study or not. Because killing him is still wrong.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:25 PM on May 16, 2015 [23 favorites]


I'm saddened that we, as a country, have compounded the injustice and murder that Tsarnaev committed with another act of judicial murder. The purpose of our system should be to decrease injustice not to add to it.

.

Most of the jury apparently believed Dzhokhar was the mastermind, not his brother. I don't know how a reasonable person could come anywhere near that conclusion, but that's the "reality" they went with.

Because the jury had to be death penalty eligible. Which means they are people who want to see blood spilled and if that requires mental gymnastics then by gollie we will get mental gymnastics.
posted by Justinian at 5:38 PM on May 16, 2015 [10 favorites]


I have a hard time caring what happens to sociopaths. They lack all empathy, and that, to me, indicates they lack the very most important part of being human.

I don't like it when livestock is mistreated. As long as it's humanely done, whatever happens is fine.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:00 PM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have a hard time caring what happens to sociopaths. They lack all empathy, and that, to me, indicates they lack the very most important part of being human.

The irony in these two sentences burns like the heat of a thousand suns. I'm not often speechless...
posted by Justinian at 6:02 PM on May 16, 2015 [21 favorites]


When I read a line like ...even though I am against the death penalty, this time is different, it reminds me of those non-apologies that include the self-sabotagin word "but," or go "I am sorry you are offended" (instead of really apologizing.

My opinion may not count because I am over the state line in Rhode Island, but I used to live & work & play right there in Back Bay -- and I, too, want a side order of vengeance with my justice. However, giving him the death penalty gives him a double victory: he got to set off the bombs *and* he gets to be a martyr after a circus of a trial. It's playing right into his hands, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. I say forget it: put him in a hole and nail the lid on. A stony black silence is the only treatment that won't encourage copy-cats.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:06 PM on May 16, 2015


I have a hard time caring what happens to sociopaths. They lack all empathy, and that, to me, indicates they lack the very most important part of being human.

What about sociopaths who recognize their inability to have certain empathetic emotional reactions but, as a result of, say, ethical reasoning, or adherence to received principles, decide to act as though motivated by empathy, and end up passing the Not-A-Sociopath Turing Test? Are such people better than human, and therefore worthy of extra care on your part, because of their advanced ability to suppress their drives; just the same as other people; or do you actually think that the mere presence of an emotional incapacity -- regardless of how it is managed -- should inform the level of humanity that you ascribe to other people? If "yes" to the first or third options, how do you tell who's who, and are you comfortable having the level of humanity that you grant others be contingent on the accuracy of your evaluation of their sociopathy level? Do you think you have more false positives, or false negatives, when you decide who lacks the most important human feature?

I'd say, by the way, that the ability to use abstractions -- namely, ethical reasoning -- to overcome our emotional impulses, and behave nicely where no emotional impulse to be nice exists, is a more impressive human capacity than empathy that might come naturally (when the subjects have convenient attributes).
posted by busted_crayons at 6:18 PM on May 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


But I don't see how anyone could make reparations for killing children. So I don't think the Camus passage applies here.

As someone mentioned before, what's done is done. No reparation can change what's been done. You know what I would count as reparations for killing children? Repentance. Realizing that what he did was wrong, and feeling guilt for what he did, and from each day forward, trying to live a life of goodness.
posted by Dalby at 6:23 PM on May 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


John Cohen wrote: I understand being opposed to the death penalty. But given that the death penalty is part of the law, of course jurors who'd be unwilling to apply that law aren't going to be selected. That seems like a basic principle that would apply in any jury selection, whether or not the death penalty is an issue: don't select jurors who'd have a moral objection to correctly applying the law to the facts of the case.

Tsarnaev had the right to be judged by a jury of his peers. Restricting the jury pool to (reportedly) 15% of his peers makes that right a mockery: why would you think that such a small fraction is representative? At some point your potential pool is so small that it's filled with cranks and nutters - I think 15% is perilously close to that point.

What do you do when the only people who will "correctly apply the law" are people who will not correctly determine the facts; when the potential jurors are inevitably crazy, or eager to see a bad guy get killed? It's not like Tsarnaev would have gone free: he'd have been convicted on lesser charges. Surely jury nullification of (what his peers have determined to be) a bad law is better than the risk of imposing a bad verdict.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:31 PM on May 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb murdered a 14 year old boy in cold, premeditated blood. Leopold after his arrest stated: "The killing was an experiment... It is just as easy to justify such a death as it is to justify an entomologist killing a beetle on a pin." Sounds like scum, eh?

You know what happened over the years to Leopold? He found remorse: "Looking back from the vantage point of today, I cannot understand how my mind worked then. For I can recall no feeling then of remorse. Remorse did not come until later, much later. It did not begin to develop until I had been in prison for several years; it did not reach its full flood for perhaps ten years. Since then, for the past quarter century, remorse has been my constant companion. It is never out of my mind. Sometimes it overwhelms me completely, to the extent that I cannot think of anything else."

What did he go on to do with his life after being given the chance? Well, while in prison he: "became a model prisoner. He reportedly mastered 12 languages — in addition to the 15 he already spoke[7] — and made multiple significant contributions to improving conditions at Stateville Penitentiary. These included reorganizing the prison library, revamping the schooling system and teaching its students, and volunteer work in the prison hospital. In 1944, Leopold volunteered for the Stateville Penitentiary Malaria Study; he was deliberately inoculated with malaria pathogens and then subjected to multiple experimental malaria treatments."

What did he do after prison? "He attempted to set up the Leopold Foundation, to be funded by royalties from Life Plus 99 Years, "to aid emotionally disturbed, retarded, or delinquent youths."" He, "earned a master's degree at the University of Puerto Rico, then taught classes there; became a researcher in the social service program of Puerto Rico's department of health; worked for an urban renewal and housing agency; and did research in leprosy at the University of Puerto Rico's school of medicine." And he worked, "as a laboratory and X-ray assistant for a hospital."

Does this make right the wrongs he committed? I don't know. I don't think that's the point. The point is that he was given a chance to repent for his actions.
posted by Dalby at 6:38 PM on May 16, 2015 [27 favorites]


My opposition to the death penalty comes down to some very simple propositions:

1. Violence is always unjustified unless absolutely necessary.

2. The death penalty is a form of violence.

3. The death penalty is clearly unnecessary (since numerous countries lack it and get along just fine).

4. Therefore, the death penalty is unjust.

I honestly don't see how anyone could possibly find fault with my logic. If you agree with the principle that violence is unjustified unless absolutely necessary, being against the death penalty is the only logical position to take.
posted by EmptyEmpire at 6:39 PM on May 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


EmptyEmpire, I think most objections to your specific argument, from people in jurisdictions with the death penalty, involve proposition 3 together with some special pleading about their jurisdiction.
posted by busted_crayons at 6:46 PM on May 16, 2015


Not that it would have swayed this jury, but did the defense present evidence of what effect heavy chronic marijuana use can have on a young brain, and how extreme Tsarnaev's habit was?
posted by mmiddle at 6:50 PM on May 16, 2015


The death penalty is clearly unnecessary (since numerous countries lack it and get along just fine).

I think the issue you will find is that many people disagree with the 'just fine' part.
posted by corb at 7:09 PM on May 16, 2015


I think the issue you will find is that many people disagree with the 'just fine' part.

This is what I'd like to see someone spell out. What difference does it make between an imprisoned convict and an executed one? Sure, I'll admit that an imprisoned convict requires more money than an execution (all things being equal. Yes, in reality executions cost more, but this picture is more complicated because we don't want executions to be done willy nilly and potentially execute someone who is innocent and so we have this expensive legal buffer built into the system). But what else is there beside that? There's no difference in the safety of the people.

The only other possible defense would be that victims find release from the execution. But someone posted studies that disputes this. And secondly, it's not clear that this is appropriate justification. Blood feuds seem predicated on what we might call this principle: victim's rights. Your brother gets slain? It's your right to exact similar vengeance on whoever wronged you. But this is no way to run a society. If there's no other reason to execute a convict than the fact that the victim's, victim's family, have a right to some sort of emotional release... I think this is a patently immoral manner of governance.
posted by Dalby at 7:24 PM on May 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think the issue you will find is that many people disagree with the 'just fine' part.

The USA, with executions in many states, has a per capita murder rate of 4.7/100K. Canada, no executions, 1.6. Australia, no executions, 1.1. UK, no executions, 1.0. New Zealand, no exeuctions, 0.9. (I have deliberately chosen the countries that are essentially closest to the USA in terms of general majority culture.)

Or, if you don't like the internationality of those numbers, you can look on a state by state basis. From that page, emphases mine:
For 2013, the average Murder Rate of Death Penalty states was 4.4, while the average Murder Rate of States without the Death Penalty was 3.4

For 2012, the average Murder Rate of Death Penalty States was 4.7, while the average Murder Rate of States without the Death Penalty was 3.7

For 2011, the average Murder Rate of Death Penalty States was 4.7, while the average Murder Rate of States without the Death Penalty was 3.1

For 2010, the average Murder Rate of Death Penalty States was 4.6, while the average Murder Rate of States without the Death Penalty was 2.9

For 2009, the average Murder Rate of Death Penalty States was 4.9, while the average Murder Rate of States without the Death Penalty was 2.8

For 2008, the average Murder Rate of Death Penalty States was 5.2, while the average Murder Rate of States without the Death Penalty was 3.3
tldr: states with execution have a higher rate of homicide than states without. Countries similar to the USA that do not have execution have a lower rate of homicide than the USA. Ergo, it does not function as a deterrent.

So, they can 'disagree' as much as they like. As usual, facts do not favour the conservative position.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:48 PM on May 16, 2015 [17 favorites]


60% of Massachusettsians are against the death penalty in all circumstances.

We keep citing this statistic as if its gospel. What you don't understand that those 60% people are the same as the people on metafilter who are saying "I'm against the death penalty, BUT....".


I honestly don't see how anyone could possibly find fault with my logic.

Yes, this is the ringing cry of metafilter.

Violence is always unjustified unless absolutely necessary.

So basically, what you are saying is "violence is justified when necessary". I agree. And I think the sentence is fair.
posted by hal_c_on at 7:51 PM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


tldr: states with execution have a higher rate of homicide than states without.

The murder rate is not the only statistic which people think has value.
posted by corb at 7:56 PM on May 16, 2015


When an individual makes a considered decision to end the life of a fellow human who is not at that moment threatening them, there are very, very narrow circumstances in which we as a society see that as okay. The concept of self defense falls apart if the other guy isn't a credible threat to you at that moment. Whatever he or she might have done to you yesterday, if you carefully consider your options and choose to pick up a gun, go to their house, and shoot them in the head, most people would condemn you for it. You can talk about justice or vengeance or bloodlust all day, but you're probably still going to jail for manslaughter at minimum.

When society makes a considered decision to end the life of a fellow human who is not at that moment threatening anyone, why do we suddenly throw open the doors to vengeance or bloodlust or murder-as-justice? There are quite a few folks here who probably would not themselves ever pick up a hypodermic syringe full of potassium chloride and inject a killing cocktail into Tsarnaev's veins, but they seem to have no problem with the government doing exactly this on their behalf, and in many cases folks appear to be taking a surprising degree of relish in the anticipation.

How do we rationalize the disconnect? Is it only because we feel like our hands are clean, when "society" or "government" or "the justice system" does the killing for us? But what is society, or the government, or the justice system, except a framework that we built? It's not some inscrutable third party absolving us of culpability. It's still us. We're still responsible for what it does. So I feel like there should be a much closer correspondence between the things that we, personally, would be willing to do in the name of "justice" and the things that we're willing to allow and empower the government to do on our behalf. Stabbing a man while wearing a sock puppet doesn't magically shift the responsibility for that death to Lamb Chop, and when we decide to kill people by means of the systems that we built and voted for and support with our taxes, all of us share responsibility for that death.

If in this instance, your belief that this man is worthless and irredeemable is so strong that you'd be willing to step up and kill him with your own hands, then I believe you when you say that you fully support the death penalty and agree with the verdict in this case. If you're convinced this man needs to die but you don't think you'd personally have the stomach for it, I'd encourage you to consider what this disconnect -- between the things you're personally willing to do and the things you're willing to have done on your behalf, as long as you don't have to get your hands dirty and feel responsible for it -- says about you.
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 7:57 PM on May 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


Not that it would have swayed this jury, but did the defense present evidence of what effect heavy chronic marijuana use can have on a young brain, and how extreme Tsarnaev's habit was?

Whoa whoa! This fucker has already hurt enough people. Don't try to hurt people who abuse drugs for this dude. Making up stuff like this just hurts another class of people. Like marijuana use made this dude go out and do this?!? I would say that a few bong hits before he left his house to do this would have prevented this tragedy.
posted by hal_c_on at 7:57 PM on May 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


What does that mean?

We have long since demolished the notion that executions are cheaper than imprisonment. The numbers show pretty starkly that execution doesn't act as a deterrent. The only thing left is vengeance. Which, okay, that's gross. Be honest about it, at least.

but they seem to have no problem with the government doing exactly this on their behalf

This is an excellent point. There is an enormous overlap--including right here in this thread--between the people who think government can't do anything right, and it's illegitimate, and yet wholly trust the same government they want to drown in a bathtub to accurately determine who should live and who should die.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:00 PM on May 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Whups, "what does that mean?" was in response to corb: "The murder rate is not the only statistic which people think has value."
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:02 PM on May 16, 2015


We have long since demolished the notion that executions are cheaper than imprisonment.

No, we haven't. We've established that executions as we currently run them are not cheaper than imprisonment - that doesn't mean that executions couldn't be far cheaper than imprisonment - and actually, I'm not sure they are if you take into account, for example, the lifetime medical costs of a prisoner especially once they become part of the aging population.
posted by corb at 8:09 PM on May 16, 2015


Yes, actually, we have. Costs of execution vs life imprisonment.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:12 PM on May 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


And I think the sentence is fair.

OK...but why would that make it necessary? There is no need to kill him.
posted by EmptyEmpire at 8:12 PM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Looking at that link you posted, fffm, a large percentage of the costs seem to be legal fees, particularly defense costs - which I'm not really comfortable counting as a part of the cost of the death penalty, because it's essentially saying, "Well, we will provide good legal defense, but only for death penalty cases, so let's not try for the death penalty so we can shaft people in legal representation." The money quote here is
"These cases are more costly because there are procedural safeguards in place to ensure the sentence is just and free from error."
But shouldn't we be seeking for all cases to have a just sentence, free from error?
posted by corb at 8:16 PM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


They are still costs, most of which are borne by the state. Let's deal with the facts as they actually are, and not extraneous issues that have no bearing on how the world is right now: executions cost more than life imprisonment. Countries and states without execution have lower rates of murder. So there's cost and deterrence gone. Rehabilitation, obviously, is not a goal. The only point left one can argue is retribution and vengeance, which I maintain is barbaric.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:19 PM on May 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


I don't think that criminal sentencing should be based on making victims (or their families) feel better.

It's a fallacy, anyway. What if a victim is killed but has no family or even friends? Should the killer be put to death to make...no one feel better about it? This is why we shouldn't have a death penalty, because revenge is not something that should be codified into law.
posted by zardoz at 8:23 PM on May 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


But shouldn't we be seeking for all cases to have a just sentence, free from error?

However, if you're going to talk about 'free from error,' the system right now is not free from error. Right now the Innocence Project is working tirelessly and with little thanks to have not-guilty people exonerated and released from Death Row. Innocents have been executed. That alone, the idea that the state can murder innocent people with impunity, is enough reason to be against execution. We've been down this road before; you have expressed that you think it's okay for innocents to be executed; I can't remember if you actually used the words 'collateral damage' but that was the meaning of what you said.

I don't believe it's okay for innocents to be put to death. I'm funny that way. Moreover, for every innocent person sitting in jail, the actual perpetrator of the crime is quite possibly walking around free and committing more crimes. One would think that people devoted to law and order would have a problem with this. And yet, they don't. The view seems to be, well, can't make an omelette without breaking some eggs.

So, bottom line is this: anyone who supports the use of executions in the USA is by definition supporting the occasional murder of innocents by the state. I find that morally repugnant, not to mention depressingly incoherent. Which brings us right back round to: vengeance and retribution. Which, as zardoz has just pointed out, is not something that is codified into law, and rightly so. Restitution is codified into law; retribution isn't. Because it doesn't. Ever. Work.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:26 PM on May 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


corb: "But shouldn't we be seeking for all cases to have a just sentence, free from error?"

Yes, but I think that merely illustrates the qualitative difference of the death penalty. As they say, it differs from a 100-year sentence more than a 100-year sentence differs from a one-year sentence. There are lengthy appeals before an execution because once it happens, that's it. Too late. Often there are procedural issues to be examined in these appeals, but often it's just the legal form of flailing around in desperation.

That doesn't happen for life sentences because there isn't an urgency to raise every possible legal issue before a literal deadline.
posted by savetheclocktower at 8:31 PM on May 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Execution is a money maker for someone, and a big time form of cruel and unusual punishment. Since people are condemned to death but languish on death row, for decades. I think the system is a brutal but profitable farce. Young Tsarnaev admits his role in heinous murder, is condemned to death, and yet there will be no death until years of appeals go by. Meanwhile a whole industry clanks along on the sound of opening and closing cell doors. The US has been awash in police murders and riots of protest, and maybe we will become a better society fueled by outrage that foments real action.

But the show of condemnation to death, followed by the promise of years of appeals, this is supreme dysfunction. It was dysfunctional to condemn the kid. But now that is done, trial by jury, done. Where is the justice that this verdict was supposed to mete out? I maintain the system is broken. Our justice system has been used as a tool for petty class warfare for so long, we forget it is not just, or even very bright. We just got around to not letting the police steal all of our stuff, they are still stealing our lives right and left.

So Tsarnaev is condemned to death, get on with it.
posted by Oyéah at 8:45 PM on May 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


the fact that it will take many years to happen has already been mentioned, but it's also that on every appeal, every decision, every time it is back in the news, the families of the victims will be harmed anew.

I'm staunchly anti-death penalty on moral grounds even in this case. But, the economic and emotional argument must be made as well. Executing someone is enormously expensive in terms of money, time, and resources of the criminal justice system and the emotional toll it takes on those involved. It's way more expensive then a life sentence. Is it worth spending that money and time on Tsarnaev?

In terms of humanity, do people here really think life in a maximum security federal prison is a much lighter sentence than the death penalty? It's pretty terrible in there. I don't really care if he can be rehabilitated or not, but the death penalty diminishes us all. I'm not so naive to think it lowers us to the level of terrorists, but for these types of crimes, I don't think a death sentence is a deterrent. And if it's not a deterrent, and it costs a lot more money, then what's the point? Punishments should make society safer; they shouldn't be used in such a cavalier manner to encourage martyrdom and retribution.
posted by bluefly at 9:14 PM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


You know, in all these discussions about the death penalty, we always talk about the victims' families. Yet we rarely talk about the perpetrator's family; why is that? To me it seems like yet another problem in a heap of problems with capital punishment -- that on top of all the grief and the shame and the self-questioning guilt they must already be suffering, we somehow think it's ok to add to their grief; to snuff out whatever hope they might have had of seeing the perpetrator change, of getting whatever letters and calls imprisonment would have allowed; to make them wait, powerlessly, for their fellow humans to calculatingly kill their son/brother/&c?
posted by Westringia F. at 9:21 PM on May 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


"guilt is not something that should be privately assigned to some individual, but rather something shared by everybody in some mysterious way"

(Marshall McLuhan)
posted by philip-random at 9:37 PM on May 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


The irony in these two sentences burns like the heat of a thousand suns. I'm not often speechless...

I'm well aware of the irony. It is, after all, dead obvious. Alas, I can't claim what isn't there. The fate of genocidal maniacs, war criminals, and terrorists elicits a "meh" from my care-organ.

As long as what happens is humane, I'm not going to claim to care when I really do not. I don't necessarily believe SuperMax is more humane than death or vice-versa. Whatever keeps him out of society works for me.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:09 PM on May 16, 2015


So, a lot of speculation has been cast on whether, since he does not feel remorse now, if he ever will. The human brain does not stop forming (from what I've read) until around age 24, and the last parts to finish forming are decision making & impulse control. He's 22, I think? I'd be interested to see if anything shifts in his brain over the next few years, and if remorse comes. I'm generally against trying children as adults for this reason, too.
posted by greermahoney at 11:15 PM on May 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I am incapable of understanding the "killing people is wrong, so we're going to kill you" argument.

Very late, but since no one offered: the argument is actually pretty simple, really, even if, like me, you disagree with it. It boils down to the proposition that killing people is wrong only when it is not sanctioned or done by the state. From that relatively simple (and again, I think ethically indefensible, unless you accept the necessary stepping stone that human life is inherently without value) standpoint, we get 'just' wars, capital punishment, and much more, hell right up to and including Mr Obama's enthusiasm for drone warfare.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:20 AM on May 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


It boils down to the proposition that killing people is wrong only when it is not sanctioned or done by the state.

True, although this still doesn't distinguish between killing done in defense of the people (e.g. defending during a war) and other kinds of killing (e.g. killing a murderer who is already safely in custody, assassinating an inconvenient head of state).
posted by snofoam at 3:54 AM on May 17, 2015


Ethically, I regard those as distinctions without a difference, but others are welcome to disagree, of course.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:15 AM on May 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


Was there consideration given to treating it as an act of war, or treason?
posted by theora55 at 5:11 AM on May 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


We keep citing this statistic as if its gospel. What you don't understand that those 60% people are the same as the people on metafilter who are saying "I'm against the death penalty, BUT....".

This statement reflects some astonishingly poor reasoning, and as such leads to a conclusion that is completely incorrect:
The most recent poll, conducted last month for The Boston Globe, found that just 15 percent of city residents wanted him executed. Statewide, 19 percent did.
The evidence is not on your side. It is so far from being on your side that your assumption, in this case, is trivially easy to disprove.
posted by kewb at 5:12 AM on May 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


Only allowing jurors who support the death penalty does stack the deck. It's yet another way the US applies the death penalty in an unjust way. It's probably also a political poison pill. A presidential candidate who wanted to abolish it might be in serious trouble.
posted by theora55 at 5:18 AM on May 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


Allowing jurors that were upfront about being anti-death-penalty would also have stacked the deck.

The defense requested as often as possible a change of venue, it would have been ironic if it had been changed to Texas.
posted by sammyo at 5:30 AM on May 17, 2015


Allowing jurors that were upfront about being anti-death-penalty would also have stacked the deck.

"Stacking the deck" in favor of a more representative sample of Tsarnaev's peers is an admirable application of justice.
posted by Etrigan at 5:59 AM on May 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Others should correct if I'm wrong but my understanding is that because this was a case where the death penalty COULD be lawfully considered as a sentence (I'm not getting into right or wrong, I'm just saying the death sentence WAS a legal sentencing option), attorneys are allowed to dismiss prospective jurors who state they would not give the death penalty in sentencing.

A 1985 ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court said a juror can lawfully be excused if his views on the death penalty are so strong that they would prevent or substantially impair his ability to follow the law.

Yes, one could say it's stacking the deck, but they're allowed to stack the deck by dismissing jurors who say right up front that they wouldn't follow the law.

So it's not a matter of MA voters poll one way or the other and the lawyers were violating the law by not having a certain representation of people. Lawyers are legally allowed to exclude people opposed to the death penalty.

If my interpretation here is wrong, please chime in.
posted by kinetic at 6:26 AM on May 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thing is, they were violating the law--the right to be tried by a jury of peers.

That said, it's still stacking the deck. Just because execution is an option for sentencing doesn't mean it's mandatory. So what prosecutors do when they do this is guarantee that--presuming they can reach a guilty verdict--they're also much more likely to be able to get their bloodlust rocks off by having someone killed.

There's a big difference between dismissing e.g. jurors who are anti-tax from a tax evasion trial--they're disagreeing that the fundamental issue at play is even legitimate--and dismissing jurors who may disagree with one potential sentence. It's not like someone opposed to execution is also going to say "...and clearly should not go to jail."
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:45 AM on May 17, 2015


kinetic, that's right. Regardless of what the general population of Massachusetts thinks, the entire jury needs to be okay with all of the sentencing options, and then they pick which one is appropriate.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:48 AM on May 17, 2015


kinetic: "A 1985 ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court said a juror can lawfully be excused if his views on the death penalty are so strong that they would prevent or substantially impair his ability to follow the law."

Upon research, this seems to come from 1968's Witherspoon v. Illinois. The issue there was that an Illinois law gave prosecutors unlimited challenges to eliminate jurors who had any qualms about capital punishment, no matter how minor. The Court ruled this was unconstitutional and said that the standard should be stricter. All that matters is if a juror would be unable even to consider a death penalty in a situation where jurors must choose between a life sentence and execution. Of course, this represents the vast majority of death penalty opponents today, so this isn't much consolation.

Witherspoon had also argued that his jury was not representative because he said that a jury entirely composed of people with no objections to the death penalty would "necessarily be biased in favor of conviction." He produced a study of some sort arguing to this effect, but the majority took no position on this: "The data adduced by the petitioner, however, are too tentative and fragmentary to establish that jurors not opposed to the death penalty tend to favor the prosecution in the determination of guilt." Only Justice Douglas subscribed to this line of reasoning in his concurring opinion.

The thrust of all this is that, if you're opposed to the death penalty, you can still get on a jury if you say that you would at least consider the death penalty in this particular case if the facts supported it. (Which for many people is probably a lie.) Even then, my guess is that a prosecutor would challenge your placement and take their chances with someone else.
posted by savetheclocktower at 6:56 AM on May 17, 2015


That's the thing though. How many people don't have their minds made up about execution? Not many, I think, which leaves 'not opposed' meaning 'in favour,' meaning it's deck-stacking.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:57 AM on May 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


fffm, but what's the alternative?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:01 AM on May 17, 2015


Abolish the barbarism that is execution? Or maybe disallow prosecutors from dismissing jurors, who make up in this case an overwhelming percentage of the population, who disagree with said barbarity?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:06 AM on May 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


I don't think, personally, either one of those are alternatives. The federal death penalty is not going away anytime soon, and you cannot put a juror on a case where that's a possible punishment who isn't willing to choose that.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:08 AM on May 17, 2015


I think the fact that the death penalty isn't mandatory means that a person opposed can follow the law. They can be asked to choose and they can choose. Where's the inability here?

If that's an inability then it seems reasonable to me that people should be excluded at the other end, too. If anyone who doesn't believe it in the death penalty is out, anyone who does should be out, too. Fill the jury with death penalty agnostics and ambivalents. It's the best way to ensure the jury is open, but not stacked.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:25 AM on May 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


Thing is, they were violating the law--the right to be tried by a jury of peers.

Taking fffm's statement at face value, this becomes a very slippery slope.

Who would have been Tsarnaev's peers?

Cantabridgian UMass Dartmouth white males who smoked weed, whose Chechen fathers had PTSD, who had no problem creating bombs, terrorizing a city, blowing up children, maiming hundreds of innocent bystanders, kidnapping and murder.

I'm not trying to be a jerk. If we're going to say that he wasn't tried by a peer jury, then let's look at who his peers are.

How could anyone find a jury of these peers?
posted by kinetic at 7:26 AM on May 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


It looks like nationally the proportion of "not sures " is 8-12%. Put those people on the jury.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:30 AM on May 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


A “jury of peers” means equivalent in social class; in England it just meant that nobles get to be judged by nobles, commoners by commoners, and so on. In an egalitarian society it doesn’t have much meaning, except that juries should broadly be as diverse as the general public.
posted by savetheclocktower at 7:37 AM on May 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


The federal death penalty is not going away anytime soon, and you cannot put a juror on a case where that's a possible punishment who isn't willing to choose that.

But this practically means that opposition to a policy means that someone no longer counts as a "peer" for the purposes of a jury trial, even though the ideal of a jury of peers is meant to produce representative norms of justice. I can't think of anything that delegitimates the death penalty more completely than the fact that a person opposed to it is not allowed to have their say in whether or not it is applied.
posted by kewb at 7:38 AM on May 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


and you cannot put a juror on a case where that's a possible punishment who isn't willing to choose that

Why not? as posted above, 'not sure' is 8-12% of the population. (And dollars to doughnuts, anyone who says 'not sure' gets dismissed anyway). That means you're only getting the people who are in favour. Execution isn't mandatory, it's optional--why must jurors be unopposed to it if it's not mandatory for them to render it as a sentence?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:53 AM on May 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Because it's a mandatory option.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:57 AM on May 17, 2015


Was there consideration given to treating it as an act of war, or treason?

Hopefully not, because it doesn't fit the definition of war, and it wouldn't fit the definition of treason even if treason weren't an archaic notion, like blasphemy, unworthy of prosecution.

As mentioned upthread, the "jury of one's peers" thing appears to ensure a couple of very important things, but to be essentially meaningless beyond those. I also disagree with selecting juries on the basis of their prior ethical commitments regarding punishments, but it looks like that might not be tenable as a legal argument. That's okay, because this is the Carmen Ortiz Honorary Moral and Political Debate, not a legal discussion.

Because it's a mandatory option.

Likewise, if it's mandatory that each juror consider all alternatives, then hopefully everyone who unequivocally supports capital punishment in a given case (assuming conviction) is also barred from jury service.
posted by busted_crayons at 8:03 AM on May 17, 2015


That doesn't make any sense. Option. Doesn't have to be chosen.

What you're saying is that it's mandatory that juries must be composed--in effect, given the numbers--of people in favour of execution. That's not stacking the deck?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:03 AM on May 17, 2015


(Not tenable as a legal argument based on the "jury of one's peers" thing, anyway.)
posted by busted_crayons at 8:04 AM on May 17, 2015


Likewise, if it's mandatory that each juror consider all alternatives, then hopefully everyone who unequivocally supports capital punishment in a given case (assuming conviction) is also barred from jury service.

Yeah, this. And yet it's not done that way. Gee, I wonder why.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:04 AM on May 17, 2015


"Stacking the deck" in favor of a more representative sample of Tsarnaev's peers is an admirable application of justice.

I look forward to all of this belief in jury nullification the next time a non-death penalty sentence comes around. I mean, I'm a big believer in jury nullification and a society being able to nullify their laws if they no longer serve them, but I think if you only apply them to death penalty cases that's a special kind of hell.
posted by corb at 8:18 AM on May 17, 2015


Yeah, this. And yet it's not done that way. Gee, I wonder why.

Actually it is done this way. Review the legal concept and practice of Voi Dire.
posted by sammyo at 8:32 AM on May 17, 2015


What you're saying is that it's mandatory that juries must be composed--in effect, given the numbers--of people in favour of execution. That's not stacking the deck?

My interpretation is that you can't have jurors who state upfront that they will not uphold the law. In this case, part of the law is that sentencing COULD involve death.

An analogy would be selecting a jury in a tax fraud case. Tax fraud MAY be sentenced with a jail term, and lawyers shouldn't select potential jurors who state up front that they would not sentence a person convicted of tax fraud with jail because it conflicts with their personal beliefs. These potential jurors are stating that they will not uphold the law which makes them not fit to serve as jury members.

Basically, you can't select jurors who say they will not uphold the law AS WRITTEN. And part of the law in Tsarnaev's case is that the death penalty could be considered as a sentence.

(Listen, I think the death penalty is wrong but I just think legally, this argument doesn't work.)
posted by kinetic at 8:35 AM on May 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


Exactly, as much as many feel so strongly that the law is wrong, beware the slippery slope of only following the law when it suites your personal morality or feelings.
posted by sammyo at 8:43 AM on May 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


Actually it is done this way. Review the legal concept and practice of Voi Dire.

I know what voir dire is. My point is that juries are clearly not made up of the undecideds. If they were, we wouldn't be seeing so many execution sentences handed down.

These potential jurors are stating that they will not uphold the law which makes them not fit to serve as jury members.

Ah, no. In your analogy, the tax-fraud juror is refusing to convict, and refusing to sentence period. In this case, an anti-execution juror is refusing to consider one of the many sentencing options. Life in jail is an option, they're not refusing that, they're just refusing execution.

beware the slippery slope of only following the law when it suites your personal morality or feelings.

Everyone does that every single day, however.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:52 AM on May 17, 2015


. . . . . .
posted by benbenson at 8:54 AM on May 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


I am quite partial to FFFM's arguments, though I don't go as far as he does. As a death penalty opponent, it really sucks that I have zero chance of serving on a jury for a capital crime.

But typically this isn't an issue. If a state's residents are as overwhelmingly opposed to the death penalty as they are in Massachusetts, then that state likely has already outlawed its use. That has happened in Massachusetts. The state does not carry out executions and does not allow the death penalty in any cases where they have jurisdiction.

I live in Texas, and I'm certainly not thrilled about my state's track record on the death penalty. But I know that the majority of Texans support its use. I also believe that if a majority of Texans became opposed to the death penalty, they could lobby their representatives to pass a legislative ban. So while I don't enjoy the idea that I can't serve on a jury on a case that considers the death penalty, my recourse in the public sphere is to try to persuade people around to my side of things. It's not much, but it's something.

This was a federal case, and the federal government still retains the right to kill people for reasons that aren't clear to me. And it feels weird for a federal case to take place in a city and state with such overwhelming opposition to the death penalty. And it feels weird for that community to produce this outcome.

I fear that the federal government is following instead of leading, and will only ban federal use of the death penalty after nearly all the states have outlawed it.
posted by savetheclocktower at 8:56 AM on May 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


This was a federal case, and the federal government still retains the right to kill people for reasons that aren't clear to me.

Because terrorism is seen as a federal arena issue.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:59 AM on May 17, 2015


That's only jurisdictional; doesn't really explain why the federal government reserves the right to execute people. Especially when polling is showing lower--and indeed, according to one, minority--support for execution nationwide.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:03 AM on May 17, 2015


If you tested polling on whether people approve of the death penalty for terrorism vs. other crimes, I think you'd probably see a difference.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:05 AM on May 17, 2015


Yes and I'm sure if you did that poll on 10/9/2001 the numbers wouldn't be near what they'd be the next day. Which just goes to show that emotional reasoning and desire for vengeance is no way to run a justice system.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:08 AM on May 17, 2015 [6 favorites]


I wonder why the states don't say, murder is murder, regardless of the perpetrator's stated reasons, and we have jurisdiction, especially in this case. But I understand why the Feds have over time had to supersede local application of law in civil rights violations and all the rest of cases regarding guaranteed constitutional rights, where local prejudice overwhelms the laws ability to protect the rights of citizens. A case can be made the rights of Massachusetts have been broadsided in that for crimes committed within their state, the death penalty cannot according to state law, be applied. I can see when increasing protections for citizens can buck federal claims, but not when states want to decrease citizens rights.

I wonder if Massachusetts already fought that battle?
posted by Oyéah at 10:18 AM on May 17, 2015


As a death penalty opponent, it really sucks that I have zero chance of serving on a jury for a capital crime.

That's why I'm sort of grateful for this case. I thought I opposed the death penalty. As it turns out, I'm not incredibly bothered by it here where we know for sure we have the right person and that person went out and purposefully killed children. So it looks like I could serve on a death-penalty-is-an-option jury after all, even though there has been no other case I remember where I haven't been against application of the death penalty.
posted by onlyconnect at 11:28 AM on May 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ah, no. In your analogy, the tax-fraud juror is refusing to convict, and refusing to sentence period.

I apologize if I was unclear.

In my tax fraud analogy, a potential juror could believe that tax fraud is illegal but should not be punishable by jail and they would be capable of following the law to some extent and voting for a guilty verdict.

But if my imaginary potential juror refuses to consider a jail sentence, then they're saying they will not uphold the law.
posted by kinetic at 11:55 AM on May 17, 2015


••
posted by clavdivs at 12:23 PM on May 17, 2015


no other case I remember where I haven't been against application of the death penalty.

What about Tsarnaev makes him more federal-death-penalty-worthy than McVeigh, who killed dozens of times as many people, also with a bomb, possibly for isomorphic reasons?
posted by busted_crayons at 12:38 PM on May 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yes and I'm sure if you did that poll on 10/9/2001 the numbers wouldn't be near what they'd be the next day. Which just goes to show that emotional reasoning and desire for vengeance is no way to run a justice system.

So which is the emotional reasoning? Pro and anti-death penalty? Seems like its emotions all around that lead to any opinion here.

Unless you can show that there is some type of benefit to keeping this guy alive. You know, besides the "capital punishment degrades us all" emotional reasoning.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:09 PM on May 17, 2015


Unless you can show that there is some type of benefit to keeping this guy alive.

Wait, what are the benefits of keeping anyone -- random people, not convicted murderers -- alive? It seems like the people advocating execution are the ones advocating an extraordinary measure that requires a good reason, not the other way around.
posted by busted_crayons at 1:15 PM on May 17, 2015 [6 favorites]


> But typically this isn't an issue. If a state's residents are as overwhelmingly opposed to the death penalty as they are in Massachusetts, then that state likely has already outlawed its use. That has happened in Massachusetts. The state does not carry out executions and does not allow the death penalty in any cases where they have jurisdiction.
[...]
This was a federal case, and the federal government still retains the right to kill people for reasons that aren't clear to me. And it feels weird for a federal case to take place in a city and state with such overwhelming opposition to the death penalty. And it feels weird for that community to produce this outcome.


This has been bothering me a lot, too, and keeps striking a nerve that I wasn't expecting. This is navel-gazy, but anyway:

When I was growing up, my family moved around a lot. In the last major move, when I was in highschool, I lobbied my parents hard for California. Good weather, UC schools, tons of culture, easy flights to Asia to see family -- I tried everything I could to convince them. The answer I got was an unequivocal no: it's not a consideration, it will never be a consideration, let it go. "But why?" I whined, in the manner of self-entitled teens everywhere. I'd expected to be told something about the cost of living. Instead I was surprised by the answer my father gave: "Because they have the death penalty."

Of all the things that were important to my parents, that was the overriding factor. Schools, arts, cost of living... everything else was secondary. They categorically refused to live in a state with the death penalty. Leaving the US entirely was not an option -- they'd worked too hard to move here in the first place -- but they refused to support a state's executions with their tax dollars, refused to be part of a community that killed. It was the first (and maybe only) time I'd seen then take such a firm stand on principle; they're not really activist types. That year, my family moved from Michigan (the first state to have abolished the death penalty, in 1846) to Massachusetts, one of only 11 other states that made the cut. My parents deliberately chose to live in Massachusetts precisely because it does not have the death penalty.

So yeah, it feels weird. I understand that it's a federal case and all, but it really doesn't sit right to have this sentence come from the very same state that people who are opposed to capital punishment move to.

/end-navel
posted by Westringia F. at 2:08 PM on May 17, 2015 [5 favorites]


What about Tsarnaev makes him more federal-death-penalty-worthy than McVeigh, who killed dozens of times as many people, also with a bomb, possibly for isomorphic reasons?

McVeigh killed 168 people, including 19 children, because he thought the US Government was becoming the real enemy and was upset about the way it had handled Waco. The 19 kids who died were part of a daycare in the Oklahoma City building. While some reports conflict, it appears that he didn't know there was a daycare in the building or didn't put two and two together. Afterwards, he said "I thought it was terrible that there were children in the building."

For me this is a very non-objective calculus and I don't know why my weird brain could possibly say "168 people including 19 later-regretted kids -- life in prison, but this other guy deliberately puts the bomb next to a group of 8 year olds and lethal injection is okay by me." But that's where I come out. I'm sure there are other child killers, maybe even mass murdering child killers, and for many of those what would stop me is the possibility that the person didn't really do it, that the confession was coerced, that the DNA evidence somehow snagged the wrong person. But here there is no question as to the killer's identity, and I just don't feel the same righteous anti-death-penalty stance I usually do.
posted by onlyconnect at 2:10 PM on May 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


McVeigh was executed four years after his conviction. I assume the same will be true, about, for Tsarnaev.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:22 PM on May 17, 2015


McVeigh waived his right to appeal and it took four years. Tsarnaev may not do this, so we may be dealing with appeals for, I dunno, 20+ years?

Thanks Carmen Ortiz! Can we send you the bill?
posted by Farce_First at 2:49 PM on May 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Unless you can show that there is some type of benefit to keeping this guy alive.

No. It doesn't work that way. Execution advocates want to kill a human being, they want to take an extraordinary action. Therefore they must make the justification as to why.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:08 PM on May 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


Unless you can show that there is some type of benefit to keeping this guy alive.

he might be Jesus in disguise
posted by philip-random at 3:41 PM on May 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


hal_c_on: "Unless you can show that there is some type of benefit to keeping this guy alive."

I do think the burden is on those who want to execute to prove the benefit of that approach, but I'll answer this.

The vast majority of my opposition to the death penalty is about its finality as punishment. It's a penalty that cannot be partially revoked, the way a life sentence can, if we later find out that the person we punished is actually innocent. Our justice system is necessarily imperfect and I do not trust it to prove anyone's guilt to such a certainty that I'd be comfortable with an irrevocable, permanent punishment.

Most of that falls down in a case such as this, where we're dealing with someone who admits to the crime. The most people will say was that, yeah, he did it, but it was his older brother's idea and he was just along for the ride. Even most hypotheticals aren't as gift-wrapped as this one.

I don't expect everyone to have a moral opposition to killing even those who we can all agree are evil. But I do think that, if we're seriously talking about having the death penalty be so rare that only the McVeighs and the Tsarnaevs are put to death, I'd wonder if it was worth the trouble in the first place. Why have a penalty you use only once a decade which may or may not be more of a punishment than life in prison, depending on whom you ask?

I also think it'd be awful public policy to say that the state may not put someone to death… except for in rare, especially heinous circumstances. Even if you could define a rubric for heinousness. If the death penalty serves a legitimate state interest, why would you want to apply it so rarely? And if it doesn't, why would you want to apply it at all?

Among the things I learned today: Massachusetts had a death penalty on the books until around 1980, despite not having executed anyone since 1947. A couple of court cases struck down the death penalty statutes on the books, and ever since there have been occasional bills to bring it back. The longer the state goes without a death penalty, the worse those bills do.

In 2005, Mitt Romney was so hell-bent on getting the death penalty reinstated that he formed a commission to develop a set of proposals designed to address all the commonest concerns. They came out with a report whose recommendations, while all decent ideas, involved a bunch of new procedures and failsafes. The report acknowledged that all this would come with extra cost…
The Council strongly believes that, if the death penalty is to be reinstated in Massachusetts, such increased costs simply must be borne. It is not possible to have a death penalty system that is both inexpensive, and at the same time capable of being relied upon to produce accurate and fair results.
…at which point I wanted to yell at my computer screen. WHAT IS THE POINT? Are you so hell-bent on killing people that you're willing to spend tons of money to get around problems inherent to the penalty, problems that go away as soon as you decide to put those same people in jail for the rest of their lives?

Imagine if a governor's commission came out and said: "Folks, we were asked to find ways to address concerns about the dangers of reintroducing lead into all consumer paints. Here are ten things we can do that will make lead-based paint completely safe and not at all like the pernicious lead-based paints of our grandparents." I think people would consider it a solution in desperate search of a problem.

I believe that the death penalty is morally wrong in 99.9% of cases. I also believe that a death penalty system is inherently unworkable in 100.0% of the countries that have tried it.
posted by savetheclocktower at 4:06 PM on May 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


What's the ethical difference between murdering children and murdering non-children, that apparently features in some arguments in favour of executing murderers of children but not other murderers? (I mean the ethical difference, not the difference in some people's emotional reaction upon hearing about murders of children versus other murders.)
posted by busted_crayons at 4:18 PM on May 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


Most of the jury apparently believed Dzhokhar was the mastermind, not his brother. I don't know how a reasonable person could come anywhere near that conclusion, but that's the "reality" they went with.
The opposite of "Tamerlan was the mastermind" is not "Dzhokhar was the mastermind".
posted by dfan at 4:55 PM on May 17, 2015


I don't know if my feeling about this case is particularly ethical rather than emotional and I'm not arguing everyone else should feel the way I do. I feel that kids that young are innocent; they haven't chosen anything, they haven't signed off on their government's actions, they barely even get to choose what they have for breakfast. They had limitless possibilities ahead of them and that potential is gone in an instant. To look around for where to put your bomb and specifically put it in the middle of a group of kids is a level of evil I don't understand.

I would never argue for the reinstatement of or preservation of the death penalty. Until this incident, I thought I was against the death penalty, but people in this thread have told me that because I'm not against it in this single case, I'm for it. Okay I guess. But now I can serve on a death penalty jury, and odds are that might help someone else.
posted by onlyconnect at 5:15 PM on May 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


Also, the death of a child has broad implications for a community that sometimes the death of an adult doesn't. From the parents, who have to live with this gaping, grieving loss for the rest of their lives, to the young siblings, to the child's peers, who may not even understand the loss. It's not dissimilar to what happened to the children in Newtown versus adults killed in mass shootings.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:55 PM on May 17, 2015


I feel that kids that young are innocent; they haven't chosen anything, they haven't signed off on their government's actions, they barely even get to choose what they have for breakfast. They had limitless possibilities ahead of them and that potential is gone in an instant.

So the seriousness of a murder, as judged by the maximum severity level of potential consequences for the murderer, depends on how many "possibilities" the victim had "ahead of them"? Does this principle apply in general, or is it just a post hoc attempt to give voice to a vague feeling -- shared by most, perhaps, but still just a vague feeling -- that killing children is especially bad? For example, this principle seems to imply that the seriousness of a murder decreases with the age of the victim, because the number of "possibilities" that the victim has "ahead of them" tends to decrease with age. Would it be worse to murder me -- I'm 27 -- than to murder my mother, who is 52?

Of course, the number of "possibilities" one has "ahead of one" doesn't simply depend on age; it also depends on circumstances leading one to places that are especially high- or low-valence vertices in the Tree of Opportunities. There are numerous systemic factors that affect this, too. Is it worse to kill a wealthy child than a poor one, since, on average, the former has a wider range of "possibilities" "ahead of them"? That seems like a problematic conclusion.

From the parents, who have to live with this gaping, grieving loss for the rest of their lives, to the young siblings, to the child's peers, who may not even understand the loss.

My sisters are approximately the same age as I am; none of us is a child. If one of them is murdered, I will have to deal with this loss for the rest of my life. Are you going to argue that this (hypothetical) loss is, in principle, not as "gaping" as if it had been my child murdered instead? More to the point, your explanation seems to imply that it is less bad to kill an unfortunate child about whom nobody cares very much, whose loss nobody will feel acutely, than to kill a well-loved child. Is that your position?

I submit that we are now deeply in emotional reaction territory (maybe with a little icky natalism kicker), not ethical reasoning territory, and that people who are in emotional reaction territory should be kept far away from decisions that affect whom, if anyone, the state kills.
posted by busted_crayons at 6:19 PM on May 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


What's the ethical difference between murdering children and murdering non-children, that apparently features in some arguments in favour of executing murderers of children but not other murderers? (I mean the ethical difference, not the difference in some people's emotional reaction upon hearing about murders of children versus other murders.)

I dunno about ethical differences, but I would point out that the law does make a distinction between minors and adults. Ianal and don't know anything about what any laws say about murdering children vs adults, but at the very least the idea that children aren't the same as adults and cases involving them should be handled differently isn't necessarily an entirely arbitrary or emotional response.
posted by zodballs at 6:40 PM on May 17, 2015


It's worth noting that onlyconnect hasn't tried to make any political arguments, but has merely reflected on how the verdict has made her examine her own feelings on the death penalty. She's already conceded that those feelings are more emotional than ethical.
posted by savetheclocktower at 6:41 PM on May 17, 2015


Noted, savetheclocktower, but I think those kinds of feelings should be interrogated since they are inescapably political feelings. They bear on the question of whether someone should be killed by the state.

There isn't a sound ethical argument in favour of executing certain people. All such arguments are going to be predicated on vague, widespread emotional hunches. onlyconnect mentioned, I believe, having a feeling that motivates her to take a position other than categorical opposition to capital punishment. Indeed, she mentioned the theoretical possibility of being on a jury in a capital case, which, as has been discussed extensively, is only possible for people not categorically opposed to capital punishment. Therefore, onlyconnect is not so categorically opposed.

I infer from what onlyconnect wrote that the absence of her categorical opposition to capital punishment can be attributed to a certain feeling about the badness of killing children (compared to the badness of killing other people). In the absence of that feeling, it sounds to me like onlyconnect would be categorically opposed to capital punishment.

In other words, whether or not it's intended, that feeling is being used as an argument in favour of the position that capital punishment should not be categorically opposed. I consider that latter position to be dangerous; indeed, this thread is all about a person who is in mortal danger because of that position. It's on this basis that I'm trying to counter statements that are being made in support of that position.

If onlyconnect had said, ex nihilo, that killing kids is very bad, nobody would disagree, because, like, duh. But it's very hard to read onlyconnect's comment as anything other than an explanation of why she takes a specific position against which I'm arguing, so that explanation is fair game. All of this is irrespective of the fact that onlyconnect said very specifically that she's not seeking to change anyone's mind. An argument has still been made, regardless of intent, and it should be countered, because I think that Tsarnaev, regardless of the heinous shit he did, should die of natural causes.
posted by busted_crayons at 7:13 PM on May 17, 2015


[busted_crayons, it's fine to pursue the point in general terms, but please ease back on it being a personal interrogation of onlyconnect. Thanks.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:15 PM on May 17, 2015


Who cares? Some things are bad enough that they shouldn't be forgiven. Feeling sorry won't make it not have happened.

Forgiveness is part of healing and is for one's own benefit. It never even has to be expressed. It's a gift you give to yourself, to allow yourself to let go and be free of the pain of past events. I understand that to forgive is an individual choice, and some people can't bring themselves to forgive in certain circumstances, but it in no way is about absolution of anyone's transgressions.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:14 PM on May 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


I submit that we are now deeply in emotional reaction territory (maybe with a little icky natalism kicker), not ethical reasoning territory, and that people who are in emotional reaction territory should be kept far away from decisions that affect whom, if anyone, the state kills.

Natalism?! All this because a couple of people have less sympathy for someone who purposely targeted children, because in your opinion we need to have "ethical" reasons for feeling less empathy and pity for a person who would deliberately target children over adults?

It's weird to me that we are so close to having the same position -- but for this one edge case! -- yet I still need to be proven wrong and my view of it seems so upsetting. And weirder still that I "should be kept far away from decisions that affect whom, if anyone, the state kills," because, let me say it again, I am pretty sure I am the best chance a defendant could have in a capital case. I can now get on a jury, but I am extremely unlikely to think a person merits the death penalty. Pragmatically I am the first person anyone who opposes capital punishment should want on a jury where a death sentence is at stake, but you are so focused on our singular point of difference that you may have overlooked our similarities.

I'm 45 and things are less clear cut for me than they were 20 years ago when I thought every application of the death penalty was a gross miscarriage of justice. I'm a lawyer now. I have a 6 year old child. I respect your opinion in this case -- heck, in the past I would have shared it! But we don't need to agree about everything just to have a conversation.
posted by onlyconnect at 10:29 PM on May 17, 2015


"They bear on the question of whether someone should be killed by the state."

What did Plato have to say about this concerning the death of Socrates?
posted by clavdivs at 10:42 PM on May 17, 2015


because in your opinion we need to have "ethical" reasons for feeling less empathy and pity for a person who would deliberately target children over adults?

No, that's not my opinion. My opinion is that we need to have ethical reasons to entertain the idea of killing people, and we need ethical reasons to believe that it might be justified. That is different from the idea that our feelings should be predicated on ethical reasons, which is obviously impossible. We can have whatever feelings we want, but we should ignore them when forming beliefs in cases where those beliefs have the potential to harm others, unless we have some independent justification for holding those beliefs.

I agree that this is extremely tricky when those beliefs involve some ethical questions, and I acknowledge that the premises are going to be shaky, regardless, when one goes deep enough.

I also promise that the fact that the world contains numerous ordinary people sufficiently vindictive to be able to talk about "putting people down", or who think that humans can "deserve" to be victims of prison violence, etc. causes me less anger, but more despair, than a mass murder I saw on the news. So I am also bringing my feelings to this thread.

It's weird to me that we are so close to having the same position -- but for this one edge case! -- yet I still need to be proven wrong and my view of it seems so upsetting.

I find any position on extensively premeditated killing (like capital punishment) other than categorical rejection extremely upsetting. I'm not interested in proving you wrong. I'm interested in whether a few things you said -- things that someone else might use as justification for killing people! -- bear scrutiny. It seemed worth doing in the case of your comments, because it seemed possible to engage with those comments (unlike the pile of vindictive internet-tough-guy comments in this thread, which, what's the point?).

I'm also puzzled why people think of this case as an edge case, and I'm disappointed that people opposed to capital punishment are forced to resort to criticism of the fairness or efficacy or specific implementations (from which point of view the "edge case" label becomes somewhat more tenable). I literally cannot understand the position that capital punishment might not be unacceptable in principle. Nobody has offered a compelling, parsimonious explanation of why there are cases in which the usual disapproval of premeditated killing should be relaxed in order to allow the state to kill someone. I'm deeply weirded-out that the discussion is proceeding as though something is genuinely at issue, when nobody has explained why there's even room for a serious discussion. (When, generally, saying that it might be a good idea to kill Person X is not regarded as a serious proposal, or is regarded as a cause for alarm.)

I mean, I'm not naive about folks' vengeful feelings, but I'm confused by what people think they are adding to a discussion by expressing that murder makes them angry at the perpetrator. Yes, of course. Even extremely angry. Me too. Now what are we supposed to do with that?

I'm 45 and things are less clear cut for me than they were 20 years ago when I thought every application of the death penalty was a gross miscarriage of justice. I'm a lawyer now. I have a 6 year old child.

I genuinely don't know how this part of your comment relates to this discussion or what you are trying to achieve. I hope everything goes well for your kid, and that the don't-kill-folks-when-you've-got-the-option thing stays clear-cut for them.

I respect your opinion in this case -- heck, in the past I would have shared it! But we don't need to agree about everything just to have a conversation.

See, it's hard for me to see this as a simple difference of opinion, because all but one opinion has the potential to make everybody complicit in killing people who are not current threats. I mean: I can't say that I respect other opinions about this (this has nothing to do with respecting or not respecting other people). I respect your feelings about the crime in question. I just disagree that those feelings justify a modification to a certain belief about killing someone. In order to explain the source of that disagreement, I asked some questions. That's all.
posted by busted_crayons at 11:41 PM on May 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


[Once again: this is a general discussion and not an examination of a single member's personal opinion. Even if you think you have great reasons for focusing on one person and deciding to directly grill them and somehow face them down in a one-on-one "explain yourself to my satisfaction" (as opposed to just generally discussing the issues they may have raised), it's not the purpose of the site, and the sort of thing we've been asking people not to do, repeatedly, in this thread. If you want to talk about a topic, fine. If you want to debate a single other user, contact them via email or mefi mail to see if they're willing. Let's now please drop this as a direct back and forth. Thank you. ]
posted by taz (staff) at 11:58 PM on May 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


What's the ethical difference between murdering children and murdering non-children, that apparently features in some arguments in favour of executing murderers of children but not other murderers? (I mean the ethical difference, not the difference in some people's emotional reaction upon hearing about murders of children versus other murders.)

I don't support the death penalty, but I think that murdering children is worse because they are more vulnerable. Similarly, violent crimes against the elderly and crimes that target other groups such as the intellectually disabled are considered worse than if the victim had been someone more able to fight back.

Attacking a child is not only a violation of the basic obligation not to do harm to another, it's also a reversal of a positive obligation to look after each other that varies from person to person in society but is strongest in the direction of adults to children and members of less vulnerable groups to the more vulnerable. For example most people when seeing a toddler wandering alone in the street (assuming a high-trust society) would feel an obligation to make sure they are ok and try and reunite them with their caregiver. To not only fail in this obligation but to actively harm them makes it a double-violation. Because the well being of the vulnerable is more dependent on others, attacks on them do more damage to the trust level in society than regular crimes. I think everybody who isn't a sociopath (including you) recognizes this on some level and I don't think it's just based on emotion.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 1:44 AM on May 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


Gah, this is the same Ortiz? I wonder what it's like to build your career on a pile of corpses.
posted by Zarkonnen at 4:21 AM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I understand the upset about Dzhokhar dropping the bomb off next to some children, but I am not sure that Dzhokhar could drop off the bomb in a crowd in a location that would be better in a way that would cause less outrage. If he wandered around for 5 minutes looking for a group of old people would he not be accused of wanting to play god or similar? This seems like outrage for the sake of it.
Has this callous bomb locating been something that has been highlighted by the press coverage? I can't imagine that they would not be focusing on dehumanising him as much as possible.

If one has committed to dropping a bomb off in a crowded area then I would imagine that considerations about the specific demographics of those proximate might not be high on the agenda, without wanting to sound too flippant.

AFAIK there is plenty of medical evidence that modern high potency strains of marijuana can cause negative psychological effects which were not triggered as strongly by old school weed. Whether or not sucking down a few bongs would have caused him to go on a pizza binge rather than a bombing raid is a moot point. I am not sure whether it should be taken into consideration when judging a case, would use of other psychoactive substances, whether legal or illegal, be relevant?

This is a rare example there is no doubt that the individual who committed a heinous crime has been apprehended and confessed. What a society does with that situation reflects the values of that society. Also Ortiz.
posted by asok at 6:21 AM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


In the olden days wasn't a confession one of the things that was considered enough mitigation to spare the hanging? I think so, but maybe I'm misremembering.
posted by wierdo at 7:14 AM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


If in this instance, your belief that this man is worthless and irredeemable is so strong that you'd be willing to step up and kill him with your own hands, then I believe you when you say that you fully support the death penalty and agree with the verdict in this case.

Agree 100% here. I oppose the death penalty generally (we have no right to take human life arbitrarily), but in this particular case, I'd gladly act in the public interest and serve as the executioner.
posted by theorique at 12:40 PM on May 18, 2015


Then you don't oppose the death penalty. You just think there should be a very high standard for applying the death penalty.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:59 PM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Agree; there is no such thing as "I oppose the death penalty. But this time it is okay!". At that point you've established you don't oppose the death penalty and now we're just haggling over the price, so to speak.
posted by Justinian at 2:33 PM on May 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


What did Plato have to say about this concerning the death of Socrates?

Well, it's probably worth bearing in mind that Socrates was given the option to recant, to accept exile, but deliberately chose the hemlock, so.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:02 PM on May 18, 2015


So...he was guilty. Do innocent men let themselves be killed by the state. Even after some joking and bargaining, the guilty verdict stood.

Your saying Socrates had a way out, I'm saying he didn't.
posted by clavdivs at 7:34 PM on May 18, 2015


No, I don't think he had a way out, or rather that his decision not to take the ways out that were offered was the only right one to make according to his philosophy (or what we know of it through Plato, which introduces some unknown degree of wiggliness).

Do innocent men let themselves be killed by the state.

Well, that's the thing if we're bringing Socrates into it, I guess. Guilty or innocent, if the state decided that someone to is to die, they're not really in a position (unlike Socrates) of letting it happen. It's going to happen, generally. The question, at least philosophically, is whether the state has a right to make that decision.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:44 PM on May 18, 2015


You are beautiful and wise.
posted by clavdivs at 9:16 PM on May 18, 2015


And you were right.
posted by clavdivs at 9:16 PM on May 18, 2015


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