Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Tsarnaev Case: Why The Death Penalty Verdict Will Not Bring "Closure"

In 1990, after my wife's uncle was murdered in his home in cold blood, Bajans were up in arms that the two thugs - finally apprehended in Grenada - be dispatched to the gallows to get their just desserts. At the time, in fact, I was a strong death penalty advocate given my belief that a small island nation didn't have the luxury of entertaining life in prison for murdering rats.  It simply didn't have the resources, or the manpower to dispense such sentences for stone killers (increasing in abundance since the island became a trans-shipmen point for drugs.) So the best solution was to "hang 'em high". My wife felt exactly the same way.

Then Amnesty International intervened in 1991, filing a suit in British and a local high court (Privy Council)  that effectively claimed the island nation was guilty of 'cruel and unusual punishment' in singling certain varmints out for hanging, Barbados was in an uproar. Who the hell were these upstarts to barge into national matters that didn't concern them? Who were these foreign clowns to play fast and loose with our security?  (Around this same time, and after a neighbor English girl was raped in broad daylight, we applied for a gun license - but were later told that we might use a machete instead since the wait for guns was at least ten years!)

Eventually, the two maggots who committed the foul deed escaped, but by then we had left the island for the U.S. All subsequent evidence is they were finally caught in Carriacou  after 5 years and remanded to Glendairy Prison where they remain - hopefully to rot. By this time, all our vengeful passions had been spent - we just wanted to make sure they never got out again. (New solitary cells at the prison with multiple gates, doors now ensure that.)

This provides some background to my take on the Tsarnaev case, and let me make it clear this piece of terrorist garbage really has no more right to enjoy 50 or 70 years living than the filth murderers of my wife's uncle. However, there is one difference, life in the Supermax prison in Florence, CO would be a "hell on Earth" - as described by one guest of Chris Hayes last Friday.

But, on account of the death penalty verdict the appeals process could last decades, and there is no assurance any of the victim families would find closure anytime soon. (Despite what Jan Norton, mother of two victims claims). A very high price for vengeance. By contrast, in Barbados - before the Amnesty intervention - a convicted killer could expect to be hung within a year. Appeals were limited and the scumballs......errrr ...defendants....usually got the dregs of the island's legal talent to work with.

Not so in the U.S. According to a CBS News report last night, the waiting time is 15 years on average between verdict and execution. And that is only for the states. For the federal government (under which laws Tsarnaev has received it) it could be much longer. One Boston College Prof interviewed said it could well be decades, if ever. All that time, Tsarnaev could be rotting in Supermax.

True, Timothy McVeigh was executed in 2003 under federal law for the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, but that was only because he waived his right to further appeals. Make no mistake that Tsarnaev will not do the same. (And the first appeal is automatic.)  This is why the family of little Martin Richard pleaded for an end to it all by giving Tsarnaev life in prison.  The family's statement read:

"We hope our two remaining children will not have to grow up with the lingering, painful reminder of what the defendant took from them - which years of appeals would undoubtedly bring."

Another little discussed aspect is that the lethal drugs used in executions are running low and the Europeans are no longer prepared to send them for the purpose of executions. (The precise lethal cocktail drugs are not manufactured in the U.S.) Meanwhile, since Congress reinstated the federal death penalty in 1988 there have been only 3 executions - out of 71 death row inmates.

No one is saying that Tsarnaev should "get off  easy" - but at the same time people, reasoning people, have to ask: At what price ultimate justice? 15, 20 or more years of the families dragged before the courts? Easy to say 'Of course!' when you're not numbered among them! But as usual when practical means are often best suited to exact justice, they are often overridden in favor of extremes that backfire.

In the Tsarnaev case, the priority ought to be letting this maggot start rotting - and the sooner the better. This, as opposed to letting him and his defense team lollygag for twenty years or more while the victim families go through hell in multiple court cycles - starting with the defense moving to have the next trial out of Boston.

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