Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the men responsible for the Boston Marathon bombing, has been sentenced to death, and I don’t know how to feel. It’s not that I have sympathy for Tsarnaev. I don’t. Not much anyway, and if I have any, I know that he deserves none of it. It’s just that the death penalty, more than any other issue, makes it hard for me to decide where I stand.
On most issues, I take a very liberal stance. It’s no secret, and it’s something that I’m generally proud of, but I try to see both sides of things. I grew up in a small, highly conservative and Christian town where I always felt out of place. When I was young, I hated where I lived, but now I realize now that my environment forced me to learn how to eloquently defend my own opinions and to understand and respect the differing opinions of others, and that’s a wonderful thing. I’m thankful for it. Perhaps it is the result of my hometown that I can’t bring myself to take a stance on the death penalty.
Most days, I’m against it. It’s hard to reconcile the idea of taking a life as punishment for taking a life. It feels counterintuitive, like feeding into a cycle that can never end. It seems too mighty for a jury to decide with a relatively simple yes or no verdict whether someone will live or die. I’ve heard claims that it’s cruel and unusual punishment, read articles that detail the horrible final moments of men convicted. I’ve even heard that the death penalty is actually more expensive than a life imprisonment, though even after trying to research that claim, I’m still not sure whether it’s true or not.
But even as I’m typing these negative aspects of the death penalty, a voice in the back of my mind is chiming in with arguments from the other side. Taking a life might feel too mighty, but the criminals sentenced to death certainly didn’t feel too mighty to murder or rape or horribly torture their victims. Maybe their final moments will be cruel and unusual, but maybe that’s exactly what they deserve. Is any price too high to pay for justice?
I don’t know what the answer is, but I’m hoping that one of you have an opinion that might sway me. Regarding the death penalty, I am as open-minded as a person can be, so now’s your chance.
What do you think about the death penalty?