The Last Rites Of Spring
Should Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Receive The Death Penalty?
by Michael A. Maynard
May 1, 2015

The advent of spring brings the hope of renewal and rebirth. The events of April 15, 2013 changed all that for the five people who lost their lives and the one who might lose his own life.

I’m going down, going down, deeper than inside
(the world is my fuse)

And once inside gonna tear till there’s nothing left to find
And you wonder just how close close-up can be?
Can’t you see? Can’t you see?
I had a dream all my thoughts turned to real lips
(and the world is my fuse)

And just a dream, just a dream can bring me to my knees
And you wonder just how tight skin deep can be?
Can’t you see? Can’t you see?
I’m goin down, going down, deeper than inside
(the world is my fuse)

And from inside, outside can just fall apart
And you wonder just how lost inside can be?

Try me. Try me.

Author: Guy Picciotto.
The Band: Rites Of Spring
The Song: “Deeper Than Inside”

For an ex-jock like myself, certain sporting events define the coming of spring. Professional golf at Pebble Beach and Augusta. Major League Baseball’s spring training and opening day. The beginning of the National Basketball Association and National Hockey League playoffs. One event is very special in the Northeast and has become an international celebration of athleticism and diversity: The Boston Marathon.

I’ve attended the Boston Marathon in Wellesley Hills, which is a prime location to watch the action, halfway through the race. You can see the wheelchair racers who go flying down the turn into Wellesley Hills, like mini-mini Cooper convertibles with their tops down. The youthful coeds of Wellesley College give water and food to the racers as they go by. You can begin to see the best men and women marathoners form packs out in front as they jockey for position. If it is a temperate day, the rays of the sun are welcome harbingers of the warmer weather to come.

But the joy and innocence of the Boston Marathon was marred by the bombing of April 15, 2013. Every marathon thereafter will be heavily policed throughout the route and especially at the finish line. The memory of what happened will invoke a sense of dis-ease about what could happen until all the racers cross the finish line safely and the crowds lining the 26.2 mile route go home.

In the 2013 Boston Marathon, 5 people died. 4 innocent and 1 not-innocent people were killed. Krystle Campbell, Lingzi Lu, Massachusetts Institute of Technology guard Sean Collier, and 8 year old Martin Richard died as a result of the bomb blasts. At least 264 others were injured, some very seriously, like Martin Richard’s sister Jane, whose leg was amputated.

The Victims Of The Boston Marathon Bombing

The Victims Of The Boston Marathon Bombing

The not-so-innocent person who died was Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the leader of the Boston Marathon bombing. He was run over by his younger brother and co-conspirator, Dzhokhar, in the ensuing 3 day police chase that ended in Watertown. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was found guilty in federal court of 30 counts involving terrorism and murder. Seventeen of those counts carry the possibility of the death penalty. There was no question of Tsarnaev’s guilt, despite what the government conspiracy theorists may believe. If there were no terrorism charges, Tsarnaev would be tried in state court.

Martin Richard At The Bombing Site

Martin Richard At The Bombing Site

Tsarnaev’s appointed lawyer, Judy Clarke, is considered to be one of the best criminal defense attorneys for death penalty cases. Attorney Clarke knew the evidence against her new client was overwhelming and chose not to fight the criminal charges. She decided to focus on the penalty phase of the trial, attempting to save the life of her young client.

This is what Attorney Clarke’s young client did.

We now know that Attorney Clarke’s client has been found guilty for murder and terrorism. The remaining issue is whether Dzhokhar Tsaenaev gets the death penalty, or spends the rest of his life in prison. Tsarnaev would be the 5th person from Massachusetts since 1988 to have faced the death penalty for committing a federal criminal offense.

Even if the jury unanimously decides Tsarnaev should be put to death, the execution will not happen soon. Massachusetts trial attorney Judith Wayne said:

When anyone is convicted of murder there is an automatic appeal. I would be surprised if the jury decides to give Tsarnev the death penalty, and even if the jury surprises me and elects to end his life, the average amount of time to exhaust all of his appeals is 12.3 years, during which time he would be alive and on death row.

Having seen the inside of SuperMax for the first time recently on the news, the collective sentiment seems to be that death is too easy for him, and he should spend the rest of his life in prison. I would be surprised if the jury decides to give him death penalty. Massachusetts is one of the 18 states, and the District of Columbia, that does not have the death penalty. The reason New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez could not receive the death penalty was that he was tried by the state, not by the federal government.

In 1982, Massachusetts voters approved a statewide constitutional amendment banning the death penalty. In 1984, the state Supreme Judicial Court overturned this amendment because it would require the defendant to plead guilty to avoid receiving the death penalty The 1984 ruling left the state without a law on the books that made the death penalty a sentencing option in criminal cases.

There are 4 reasons for opposing the death penalty, according to

● Killing Is Wrong
● Just Put Him Away
● Death Is the Easy Way Out
● His Brother Was Worse

Killing Is Wrong

The majority of Massachusetts citizens are against killing Tsarnaev and against the death penalty, according to Boston Globe polls.

Boston Globe Tsarnaev Death Penalty Poll

Boston Globe Death Penalty Poll

Boston Globe Death Penalty Poll

These results are similar to the public radio station, WMUR ,poll.

Boston area residents see the death penalty as an increasingly unpopular punishment for convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a new WBUR poll suggests.

The survey of 509 registered voters in Greater Boston found 58 percent support life in prison for Tsarnaev. That number rises to 61 percent among voters in the city of Boston….

The earlier WBUR survey was conducted last month, while the first phase of the Tsarnaev trial was ongoing. The latest poll was conducted just days after his conviction.

A flyer distributed in front of the courthouse (where Tsarnaev is being tried) reads: “To kill a prisoner in cold blood who has no way of escaping is disgusting. To do so by the state, with ceremony, only makes us all accomplices in this cowardly act.”

Just Put Him Away Already

As Attorney Judith Wayne stated above, a death penalty sentence means automatic appeals, which can take 10-14 years to complete. During those 10-14 years, Tsarnaev keeps reappearing in the media spotlight each time an appeal is to be heard. Giving him life imprisonment means out of sight, out of mind, for the most part.

Given that Tsarnaev is a Muslim and with all the conflicts involving Muslims throughout the world, killing him would provide additional fodder for terrorists to use a recruiting tool against the United States.

Death Is the Easy Way Out

As the article states:

The crux of this line of thinking largely relies on the miserable conditions at the federal supermax prison in Colorado, which houses notorious criminals like Unabomber Ted Kaczynski and shoe bomber Richard Reid. Prisoners spend 23 hours a day in isolation in tiny rooms, and have extremely limited contact with any other humans for the rest of their lives. The former warden has described the supermax as a “clean version of hell.”

This is the Colorado SuperMax prison facility, out in the middle of no man’s land.

Colorado's Supermax Prison

Colorado’s Supermax Prison

This is what Tsarnaev’s cell would be:

Supermax Prison Cell

Supermax Prison Cell

As former death row inmate Ryan Pettigrew writes:

Being treated as sub-human and forced to act out just to get basic necessities created a deep rooted hatred that hasn’t gone away; I just choose to use it to fuel progress since the best revenge for those who tried to break me is success. I was poked with a stick for years but refuse to bite; tortured and punished for studying, now working to overcome the demons.

After my interview with local news stations, my parole officer asked me if “torture” was too strong of a word. I responded with my story about when prison staff had me strip celled for 24 hours in a cold cell that had someone else’s puke and piss all over the floor. I was stripped of clothing but shackled for the first four hours even though I had no access to people and had to exercise for warmth while the shackles dug deep into my ankles. Eventually I had to take a bowel movement but was denied toilet paper and soap, yet forced to eat with my bare hands. It was too cold and bright to sleep, the sleep deprivation tactics increasing the emotional suffering. I ended my story with a question, “is ‘torture’ too strong of a word”?”

His Brother Was Worse

Tsarnaev Brothers At The Boston Marathon Photo provided by FBI via Getty Images

Tsarnaev Brothers At The Boston Marathon Photo – provided by FBI via Getty Images

This is the argument of Tsarnaev’s defense: He does not deserve the death penalty because he was 19 at the time, he used drugs, and he was under the thumb of his domineering older brother Tamerlan, who was killed during the shootout in Watertown.

During the trial, the defense showed evidence suggesting that Tamerlan alone bought the BBs, pressure cookers, radio transmitters, and backpacks used in the bombing. The defense has also argued that Tamerlan was the one who pulled the trigger and fatally shot MIT police officer Sean Collier.”

And as bad as the older brother was, his mother, who radicalized both of them, is worse.

Following the guilty verdicts in the Boston bombing trial on Wednesday, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s mother, Zubeidat, sent a note to a family friend declaring Americans are “the terrorists,” and saying her son is “the best of the best,” the friend told Vocativ.

My Conclusion:

I have been ambivalent about whether Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should receive the death penalty. I have followed the excellent Boston Globe columnist, Kevin Cullen’s writings throughout the trial. This is Mr. Cullen’s conclusion.

If Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is sentenced to death, he will be in our consciousness for untold years, as the appeals play out.

If he is sentenced to life in prison, he will disappear in the hole that is the federal super-max prison in Colorado.

That is the choice: life or death, darkness or light.

Personally, I would like to forget Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as soon as possible. I’d prefer to remember people like Rob Wheeler, the college kid who had just finished the race and peeled the sweaty shirt off his back to tie off the gushing leg of Ron Brassard, saving his life.

I’d prefer to remember Bennie Upton and the firefighters from Engine 7 who ran toward the explosions, even as they assumed there would be more. I’d prefer to remember police officers like Tommy Barrett who ran to the wounded without regard for their own safety.

I’d prefer to remember those Watertown cops — Joe Reynolds, John MacLellan, Jeff Pugliese and Miguel Colon — who put an end to Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

I’d prefer to remember the smile and the determination and the utter beauty of a nurse named Jess Kensky, who lost both her legs and stands taller than the brothers who tried to kill her ever could.

The Richards have done (US Attorney) Carmen Ortiz a favor. Let’s forget Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and remember the people who really matter.

This is the writing of the Richard family that Mr. Cullen was referencing:

We understand all too well the heinousness and brutality of the crimes committed. We were there. We lived it. The defendant murdered our 8-year-old son, maimed our 7-year-old daughter, and stole part of our soul. We know that the government has its reasons for seeking the death penalty, but the continued pursuit of that punishment could bring years of appeals and prolong reliving the most painful day of our lives. We hope our two remaining children do not have to grow up with the lingering, painful reminder of what the defendant took from them, which years of appeals would undoubtedly bring.

For us, the story of Marathon Monday 2013 should not be defined by the actions or beliefs of the defendant, but by the resiliency of the human spirit and the rallying cries of this great city. We can never replace what was taken from us, but we can continue to get up every morning and fight another day. As long as the defendant is in the spotlight, we have no choice but to live a story told on his terms, not ours. The minute the defendant fades from our newspapers and TV screens is the minute we begin the process of rebuilding our lives and our family.

This is a deeply personal issue and we can speak only for ourselves. However, it is clear that peace of mind was taken not just from us, but from all Americans. We honor those who were lost and wish continued strength for all those who were injured. We believe that now is the time to turn the page, end the anguish, and look toward a better future — for us, for Boston, and for the country.

What has bothered me throughout the trial is the image of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev deliberately placing his knapsack, with the bombs inside, near the Richard family. I view that act as heinous. I am not a violent or angry person, but that act is so calculated and evil, I have not wanted him to remain on earth. I have wanted him to die for his deeds and I am not proud of that.

But after reading the gracious words of the Richards and the sentiment of the tough crime reporter, Kevin Cullen, I must defer to their arguments.

I don’t think it is time to give Dzhokhar Tsrnaev his last rites this spring. Where he will be going is deeper than inside.

No Death Penalty.

What is your opinion? Should Dzhokhar Tsarnaev receive the death penalty or life imprisonment? Vote now in our survey. Results will be posted on my WordPress, Facebook. Twitter and other social media accounts.

Copyright © February 2015, Michael A. Maynard, Stow, Massachusetts.

Please feel free to leave comments below. Also, if you’ve found this article interesting and informative, please pass it along to others,  even the ones on Death Row.

For more of my articles, visit my WordPress site:

Columnist/Journalist/Writer/Book Editor Co-Founder/CEO of Azimuth Partners, high tech consulting firm for 30+ years. Former columnist for the Washington Post/Newsweek syndicate.Development and Copy Editor for 4 commercially published books.

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