More than a week ago, a Boston jury found Dzhokhar Tsarnaev guilty on all thirty counts he faced from the terrorist bombing of the 2013 Boston Marathon committed by Tsarnaev and his brother Tamerlan, killed by Dzhokhar in a getaway after a gunfight. The prosecutors will argue for the death penalty, but the parents of the youngest victim killed by the Tsarnaevs want to put an end to it. CBS Boston reports that the family has made a public plea to commit the younger Tsarnaev to life in prison without parole — and into oblivion:
The Boston Globe published an open letter from Bill and Denise Richard earlier today. They thank everyone involved in the investigation and prosecution for “leaving no stone unturned,” but want to ensure that Tsarnaev won’t become a cause celebre in the years to come:
But now that the tireless and committed prosecution team has ensured that justice will be served, we urge the Department of Justice to bring the case to a close. We are in favor of and would support the Department of Justice in taking the death penalty off the table in exchange for the defendant spending the rest of his life in prison without any possibility of release and waiving all of his rights to appeal.
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.
The Richards argue that a death sentence will force them to live for years in Tsarnaev’s shadow:
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.
CNN picked up the story nationally:
Of course, the Richards don’t speak for all of the victims; in fact, they emphasize that in their conclusion (“we can speak only for ourselves”). Other victims of the bombing have just as much moral authority to speak on preferred outcomes. The Richards even argue that all Americans were targeted by the Tsarnaevs and need healing; plenty of protesters in Boston, the community most impacted by the attack, have over the last two years insisted on the death penalty. It’s doubtful at this point that prosecutors will pull back on their plans to present that demand to the court.
Still, the Richards have a point about what will follow a sentence of death for Tsarnaev, and I write that not just because I’m generally opposed to the death penalty. A death sentence for Tsarnaev will prompt the usual string of endless appeals, some but not all of which would occur from the verdict itself. Given the nature of the attack and its indiscriminate choice of victims, it’s unlikely that Tsarnaev will become the next Mumia, but we’ve already seen Dzhokhar’s face on Rolling Stone’s cover, and anti-execution activists won’t ignore a high-profile case like this. With an LWOP sentence, we might hear about Dzhokhar occasionally like we do with Charles Manson, but without parole hearings coming up on a regular basis, there won’t be much hook for stories about jihadis rotting in Supermax.