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For terror suspect, death penalty is wrong

By Colleen Murphy
Production Manager

“Just kill him. Get the needed answers and euthanize him. An eye for an eye. Right?”

Dzhokar Tsarnaev, 19, and his brother Tamerlan, 26, killed three people and injured more than 170 others. The two turned an empowering, celebratory day into one of terror. According to the White House, Dzhokar will be tried in civilian court, and many news sources predict that prosecutors will seek the death penalty. But should capital punishment even be an option in the United States anymore?

Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was hospitalized before civillian trials were able to begin. (AP Photo)

Killing a criminal seems like an easy solution, but it is not the right one. I am going to prove this in three different ways: on a religious level, from a moral standpoint, and if you are still not convinced, I will argue why keeping the criminal alive is better than killing him.

The argument from a religious standpoint: no one but God should decide when someone should die. Yes, Tsarnaev decided on April 15 that innocent people would die, but he will have to pay the ultimate price for this decision when God decides it is time for him to die. The U.S. government should not be the one to decide when a person dies — that decision is up to God and God alone. In the meantime, Tsarnaev should be given the maximum penalty the U.S. Courts can give that does not include capital punishment.

The argument based on morals: if Al-Qaeda believes in an eye for an eye, why should the American government?

I do not get what justice killing a person gives. Will it bring closure to the family members of the persons who were murdered? Their loved one is not coming back regardless of whether or not the criminal is sentenced to death. Will it deter others from committing crimes? I do not think that people who are willing to commit such heinous crimes will deliberate whether or not to go through with it just because they have the possibility of being caught and put to death. The death penalty has not stopped murderers from murdering or terrorists from terrorizing. Killing a human being under the death penalty seems inhumane when compared to the rest of America’s beliefs.

Also, there are about five cases a year where a person murdered by capital punishment was later found innocent. In 1982, Lionel Herrera was arrested for the killing of a Texas Department of Public Safety Officer. After several trials, Herrera was found guilty and put to death by lethal injection. In his final statement, he said, “I am innocent, innocent, innocent … I am an innocent man, and something very wrong is taking place tonight.” He was later found innocent.

With capital punishment in place, many lives have been ruined for no reason. If there had been no death penalty, these people would have been found innocent and released from jail. Their lives could have continued and their families and friends would still have their loved ones with them. And for those who just want that person dead: don’t you want the person to suffer as much as possible? How is killing the criminal better than letting them sit isolated in prison?

Lethal injection is the most often used way of killing somebody under capital punishment. That is quick. Sitting in a small prison cell by oneself for a lifetime in harsh conditions sounds worse to me.

And, contrary to popular belief, capital punishment does not save taxpayers money. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, holding a case where death penalty is being sought costs $1.9 million to $3 million more than a non-death penalty case. In fact, the death penalty in New Jersey has cost taxpayers an estimated $253 million since 1983.

Between 1977 and 2012, there were 1,411 executions under the death penalty. There have already been eight executions this year alone.

Those are 1,419 human beings who should be sitting in a prison rather than dead.

Colleen Murphy


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