Good, and also legal, ethical, just, fair and necessary.
Justice Thomas wrote the majority opinion in United States v. Tsarnaev. It is, like most Thomas opinions, long, careful, thorough, and persuasive. The dissent by Justice Breyer, in contrast, is uncharacteristically weak, and the other two “liberal” justices did themselves no favors by joining it. Essentially, it is an example of exactly the judicial legislating that conservatives rightly complain about. Breyer grasps at a dubious legal straw to do indirectly what he cannot do directly: ban capital punishment, which is both legal and constitutional. His whole argument in his own nutshell:
During the sentencing phase of his murder trial, Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev argued that he should not receive the death penalty primarily on the ground that his older brother Tamerlan took the leading role and induced Dzhokhar’s participation in the bombings. Dzhokhar argued that Tamerlan was a highly violent man, that Tamerlan radicalized him, and that Dzhokhar participated in the bombings because of Tamerlan’s violent influ-ence and leadership. In support of this argument, Dzho-khar sought to introduce evidence that Tamerlan previously committed three brutal, ideologically inspired murders in Waltham, Massachusetts. The District Court prohibited Dzhokhar from introducing this evidence. The Court of Appeals held that the District Court abused its discretion by doing so….
This Court now reverses the Court of Appeals. In my view, the Court of Appeals acted lawfully in holding that the District Court should have allowed Dzhokhar to introduce this evidence.
Absolutism is a bitch, as people used to say about Emanuel Kant behind his back. Absolute means absolute, and by taking an absolute position, you have waived the right to retreat, as rational ethical beings must sometimes, to the shelter of the Ethics Incompleteness Principle. Thus I confess to being thrilled at the dilemma President Biden has found himself in as the Supreme Court considers whether Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving partner of the Chechnyan terrorist bother act that bombed the Boston Marathon in 2013, deserves the death penalty.
Oh, gee, let me thin–YES! Of course he should die. The position here on capitol punishment is that having the ultimate punishment as the penalty for ultimate evil is crucial in order to maintain society’s reverence for human life and the rule of law. I don’t care if we only haul out “Old Sparky” for true monsters, like the Cheshire home invaders, Jeffrey Dauhmer, and James Earl Ray. Heck, I don’t care if you decide to only execute Tsarnaev and monsters like him, meaning those who, like him and his big bro, plant deadly shrapnel bombs where they know a happy crowd and families will be gathering for an annual event, where they killed three people, injured 260, many of them badly, including seventeen people who lost limbs. The brothers also killed a law enforcement officer as they attempted to escape.
Opponents of the death penalty are a funny bunch, and by funny I mean “they love grandstanding until they learn the details.” In the aftermath of the D.C. Snipers case, pollsters found that a significant percentage of those who said that they were unalterably opposed to capital punishment also said “buuuut I wouldn’t fight making an exception with those snipers.”
Then you are not opposed to capital punishment. It’s that simple.
In March, SCOTUS heard arguments in an appeal of the ruling last year by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, That court upheld Tsarnaev’s convictions on 27 counts agaianst him, including First Degree Murder, but ruled that his death sentence should be overturned because the trial judge had not questioned jurors closely enough about their exposure to pretrial publicity and had excluded evidence concerning Tamerlan Tsarnaev, his older brother and accomplice.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the young terrorist who was formally sentenced to die for his role in the April 2013 Boston Marathon bombing,, finally said something in court before judgment was passed: he apologized, somewhere in the middle of an infomercial for Islam.
You can read the whole statement here. This is the apology section:
The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said that if you do not — if you are not merciful to Allah’s creation, Allah will not be merciful to you, so I’d like to now apologize to the victims, to the survivors.
Immediately after the bombing, which I am guilty of — if there’s any lingering doubt about that, let there be no more. I did do it along with my brother — I learned of some of the victims. I learned their names, their faces, their age. And throughout this trial more of those victims were given names, more of those victims had faces, and they had burdened souls.
Now, all those who got up on that witness stand and that podium related to us — to me — I was listening — the suffering that was and the hardship that still is, with strength and with patience and with dignity. Now, Allah says in the Quran that no soul is burdened with more than it can bear, and you told us just how unbearable it was, how horrendous it was, this thing I put you through. And I know that you kept that much. I know that there isn’t enough time in the day for you to have related to us everything. I also wish that far more people had a chance to get up there, but I took them from you.
Now, I am sorry for the lives that I’ve taken, for the suffering that I’ve caused you, for the damage that I’ve done, irreparable damage.
Now, I am a Muslim. My religion is Islam. The God I worship, besides whom there is no other God, is Allah. And I prayed for Allah to bestow his mercy upon the deceased, those affected in the bombing and their families. Allah says in the Quran that with every hardship there is relief. I pray for your relief, for your healing, for your well-being, for your strength.
Where does this apology rate on the Ethics Alarms Apology Scale? There are few important features to note: Continue reading
I’ve stated here several times that I am in favor of the death penalty when it can be shown beyond any doubt whatsoever that an individual committed a horrific, cruel, unequivocally inexcusable murder or murders, preferably murders. One of the two Boston Marathon bombers, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving one, clearly qualifies. Unfortunately, the public, the law and the legal profession are too confused to bring integrity to capital punishment, and I think, because of that, it can never be sufficiently fair and coherent to be ethical. Continue reading
No danger of an innocent being unjustly executed here, Richard…Now what?
Most Ethics Dunces named on Ethics Alarms are being chided for one, possibly anomalous, instance of ethics cluelessness, but not Richard Cohen. He is a lifetime, career-long ethics dunce. It is noteworthy when he writes something that doesn’t reek of ethics confusion.
Today he is blogging about the death penalty. There are coherent, powerful arguments that have been and can be made against the death penalty, but Cohen doesn’t bother with any of them, which, as a reflex old-school liberal, he should at least know by heart. No, he attacks the decision of Eric Holder to approve his Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s request to seek the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving Boston Marathon bomber as “political cowardice using one invalid argument after another, and by the way, curse you, Richard Cohen, for forcing me to defend Attorney General Holder.
Here are Cohen’s “arguments”:
- The death penalty is a horrible crime on par with Tsarnaev and his brother intentionally killing and maiming innocent spectators of the Boston Marathon. Such an absurd statement carries a high burden of proof, which Cohen doesn’t even attempt to meet.
- “[The death penalty] is the sine qua non of lack of thought, a medieval tick of the political right, a murder in the name of murder that does absolutely no good, unless it is to validate the killers’ belief in killing.” Ironically, Cohen’s post is the sine qua non of lack of thought. Since the death penalty has been around continuously since well before Medieval times, calling it a medieval tick is about as fair and accurate as calling religion, warfare, and property laws medieval tics. Of course it does good: the fact that a vicious anti-social murderer is permanently removed from society and no longer uses up resources, space and oxygen that can be better employed in the furtherance of humanity is an absolute good, and that those contemplating similarly heinous acts are on notice that the same fate awaits them is also good. Continue reading