McALESTER — The days following the April 15 bombing of the 2013 Boston Marathon were some of the darkest, saddest and emptiest days of my life. The event traumatized Massachusetts in a way Oklahomans might understand, having lived through the horrors of the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
Timothy McVeigh was eventually executed by the federal government for his role in orchestrating the 1995 terrorist attack. And as the brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev emerged as the prime suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing, I began to wonder if, when caught, they too would get the death penalty.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev died during police pursuit four days after the Marathon. Multiple news outlets reported Thursday that the federal government will seek the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
If Dzhokhar is found guilty and executed, I’ll sleep no better.
Our Declaration of Independence states that “all men” are created equal, and that they are endowed with “unalienable rights.” “All men,” not just Americans, according to our nation’s founders, have rights that cannot be taken away.
First among those inalienable rights is the right to life. The state cannot execute someone — anyone, no matter the crime nor the nationality — and still claim to be true to the founding ideals of our nation.
One common argument for the death penalty is that killing someone who has killed provides justice for the victims left behind. But victims of a crime aren’t allowed to be jurors for that crime’s trial, nor can they preside over that crime’s trial as a judge.
Crimes aren’t committed against individuals; they’re committed against the state. Killing someone because of the pain he or she has caused another is vengeance, not justice.
And for those who can’t make that distinction, one need only look at the state of prisons in our country to realize that a life in prison is a far crueler, more vengeful punishment than a quick execution.