Philosophically, I don’t know where I stand on the death penalty. Religiously, I am against it. As it is applied and administered today, I am very very VERY against it. But as a thought exercise? Removing my religious views, the racist and unjust application, and the fact that it basically amounts to cruel and unusual punishment in its execution? It isn’t one of the issues I get super worked up over.
I keep trying to incite the passion inside myself about this debate that I do over every other moral issue I consider. I generally feel that I should be adamantly against it, human life is sacred, etc etc etc. In my criminal law class (rest in peace, Professor Taslitz, you crazy genius), we learned that the justice system is meant to be punitive, rehabilitative (hah), and to preserve the safety of the general public. The death penalty clearly only satisfies one of these prongs: punitive. You can’t exactly rehabilitate a criminal in death, and safety of the general public is equally achieved through long-term or permanent imprisonment. From a jurisprudential standpoint, therefore, it does not hold up.
And yet, and yet, and yet. No matter how often I weigh my professional, personal, and political opinions, I can’t bring myself to be against the death penalty entirely. If I were to be murdered, I don’t think I’d want my killer put to death. I never want to be the cause of the death of anyone. If I were to be selected for a jury on a capital case (as an attorney, this is highly unlikely), I’d never vote for the death penalty.
I can’t stop thinking about how I feel about the Tsarnaev sentencing. I think about my own Marathon Monday experiences, the impact on the city I love so much, and the lives lost. Mostly, I’m upset that they didn’t take the wishes of Martin Richard’s family into account. The six year old, whose poster proclaiming his wish of peace, became an unforgettable image after the bombing. He wouldn’t have wanted anyone to die because of anything related to him, even his death. At least, that’s what his family felt. His family who suffered so much; the loss of their son, injuries to their daughter, and untold trauma, felt an ability to extend mercy beyond what any of us should ever have to even contemplate.
Isn’t that worth something?