Death penalty: just plain wrong
The Arizona Republic/azcentral.com
Arguments against the death penalty get pretty ridiculous. Which is why we should abolish the death penalty.
The toughest cases are those where there is no doubt about guilt. Jodi Arias escaped execution because of one juror. But her status as a cold-blooded killer is not in question. She was convicted of the 2008 murder of her lover, Travis Alexander, after a trial that was a salacious circus.
Nevertheless, I'm glad my tax dollars won't go to execute this young woman. I'd be even gladder if she goes quietly to jail and I never have to hear her name again.
Another clear case of guilt is Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. He's admitted a heinous crime against people he didn't know. He's a killer. Cold-blooded. Indiscriminate.
Three people were killed and more than 260 injured when Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan, set off two pressure cooker bombs near the finish line in 2013. Tamerlan was later killed. Dzhokhar is on trial.*
Some would say that if anybody deserves the death penalty, he and Arias do. And those people would be right. The crimes of these two people are vile and their guilt is certain.
Such cases create a real challenge for people who oppose the death penalty. In Arias' case, a lone juror kept her off death row.
Tsarnaev's attorneys are hoping at least one person on his jury will save his life.
Meanwhile, anti-death-penalty protesters are rallying on his behalf. But some look as ridiculous as Tsarnaev's attorneys, who want us to buy an argument that doesn't pass muster in kindergarten: My brother made me do it.
One anti-death-penalty protester outside the courtroom was heard on NPR's Morning Edition saying "all his friends say he was just a regular dude, that there's some evidence to suggest that he's not hard-line at all."
This tracks the other argument Tsarnaev's attorneys hope will keep him off death row: that he's not such a radical. Just misguided.
Sure, he's young. Nineteen when he planted the bomb. Like Arias, he looks like the kind of kid who could have been popular and successful. Both had a chance to make it good in America.
Both chose murder. A priest may forgive sins. Society can't.
It's the job of Tsarnaev's lawyers to rehabilitate his image or diminish his role in the crime. The subliminal message is that some murderers should get a pass because we sympathize with them.
Death penalty opponents should not mimic that approach.
They would be better off to concede that some murderers are more worthy of execution than others.
If anybody deserves to be executed, Arias and Tsarnaev do.
Nevertheless, the death penalty is wrong.
It is not wrong because some killers are young and attractive and you can imagine them as nice people. It is wrong because a civilized society should not put people to death. We have prisons to punish killers and prevent them from ever again being a threat to society.
There are other arguments against the death penalty.
Some people say it can never be fair because it is administered by human beings, who make mistakes. A mistaken execution cannot be undone.
Some say the death penalty is wrong because it has been disproportionately used against racial minorities.
Some say it is wasteful because the cost of appeals and the execution itself is higher than simply locking up a killer and throwing away the key.
Such arguments fall apart in cases like Arias and Tsarnaev, where there is no question about guilt, and little indication of bias against the accused based on race.
And keeping somebody alive just because it's cheaper? That goes in the OMG file.
The simple truth is that Arias and Tsarnaev deserve the death penalty as much anyone could.
But the state should not execute anyone - because killing is wrong.
Those who protest the death penalty should not make themselves - and their cause - look ridiculous by pretending anything else matters.
Linda Valdez has written for the two largest newspapers in Arizona over the past twenty years, specializing in the areas of medicine, education, justice, and human rights issues. She currently is a columnist and editorial writer for the The Arizona Republic/azcentral.com, where this article appeared originally. You can contact Ms. Valdez at firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was found guilty on April 8, 2015, on all 30 counts against him associated with the Boston bombing, 17 of which could warrant the death penalty. The penalty phase of the trail will begin on April 21.