Regarding the Death Penalty and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

Moments ago, a Federal jury returned a death verdict for convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. This is justice and the appropriate verdict.

At the outset, this should be a wake-up call for neo-conservatives who have long held that the criminal justice system would be incapable of properly adjudicating terrorism cases. This has stood as the rhetorical barrier on the right for closing the oft-maligned prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. The fact that justice has been done in the Boston Bomber case means that this argument (long a source of human rights claims and a beacon for terrorist recruiting), can now come crashing down. Here’s to hoping that this verdict can be a catalyst for change.

Second, before weighing in on the Tsarnaev case, it’s important to realize that there will be a lengthy appeals process before Tsarnaev is eventually executed. This exemplifies the American system. You should believe that his attorneys will leave no stone unturned in order to get Tsarnaev a new trial and exonerated. Realistically, it has seemed like the trial proceeded in an orderly and proper fashion, so I would doubt that any of Tsarnaev’s appeals would come to any fruit. However, the power of the system means that Tsarnaev will get at least a few more years on Earth.

Regarding the death penalty, I actually do not support the practice in the context of average criminals or murderers. The reason why I depart from this belief with regards to Tsarnaev is a reality of political philosophy rather than morality.

Incarceration is the appropriate remedy for most individuals who are found to have heinously or egregiously violated the rights of other individuals. Permanent incapacitation can be achieved through either incarceration or execution. This is where normal morality comes into play. There is no need to execute someone whose capacity to commit further acts has been permanently stopped.

Now, the crime of Tsarnaev is not the same as the run-of-the-mill murderer. Rather, Tsarnaev and his brother were consciously taking action against, not specifically the runners of the Boston Marathon or the City of Boston or whatever institution put on the Marathon, but rather against the United States and its values and customs. Whether truly “jihadis” or merely twisted sociopaths, the Tsarnaev brothers undertook acts of terror against the United States.

Certainly if someone breaks into your home with the intent of harming you or your family, you have the right to take any action, including lethal action, in order to protect yourself or your loved ones.

The same principle must apply in this situation. Tsarnaev acted in a way that was against the United States as an entity. The State must reserve the ultimate sanction for occasions where it is warranted. These occasions should be rare and limited to acts of treason, desertion, or terrorism. Each of these crimes is directed against the well-being and life of the State. Thus, the State, in the interest of its preservation, has the right, by nature, to take lethal action to guard itself.

To those of you reading this and thinking that this is philosophical line-walking in order to justify state-sanctioned murder, I counter that Tsarnaev was given a full trial with competent defense. Tsarnaev was not railroaded and was found guilty of his crimes and was sentenced by a jury of his peers. This was not a show trial nor is it a summary execution. The State is promoting justice in the manifestation of self-preservation. In this case, the death penalty is appropriate as a sanction.

Matt McDaniel

Attorney and Political Commentator

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