Bill & Denise Richard have written an op-ed in The Boston Globe calling upon federal prosecutors not to seek the death penalty against Boston Marathon bomber Dzokhar Tsarnaev. They are the parents of Martin Richard, the 8-year old boy whom Tsarnaev placed his knapsack of explosives next to near the finish line. Richard was one of three people killed in the attack two years ago. Their daughter Jane lost a leg while Denise Richard lost an eye and Bill Richard sustained damage to his hearing.
The Richards argue that if Tsarnaev is sentenced to death that their family will be subject to the pain of what happened through the seemingly never ending appeals process:
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.
While Massachusetts Republican Governor Charlie Baker favors a death sentence against Tsarnaev, he also says views of the Richard family in this matter “are much more important than mine.”
The Richards certainly put forward a reasonable argument. My only concern with it is that if the death penalty is taken off the table there is no guarantee Tsarnaev will get life without the possibility of parole. Let’s remember that the likes of Charles Manson and Sirhan Sirhan have regular parole hearings. If Tsarnaev is eligible for parole then he could face parole boards for the next half century. Surely this would cause the Richard family more pain than if Tsarnaev were sentenced to death.
And who can say that Tsarnaev wouldn’t try to contact the Richard family in an effort to torment them? His presence in federal prison could also serve as a source of inspiration to other aspiring jihadists. It is also possible that Tsarnaev could try to organize an attack from behind prison bars.
The Richards go on to write, “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.” Again, this is a reasonable argument. However, I don’t think we can forget the actions of the Boston Marathon Bombers and the ideological beliefs which motivated them. Given the ongoing plots by young American Muslims to carry out attacks like the Boston Marathon attack, we must ask (as I did earlier this week) how many more Tsarnaevs are out there and not only put a stop to these plots, but to the Islamic fundamentalist ideology which drive them.
Nevertheless, even if prosecutors still pursue a death penalty case against Tsarnaev, I will understand if the jury gives more weight to the words of Bill & Denise Richard than they do of mine.
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