Sunday, May 17, 2015



Twelve Massachusetts jurors returned a verdict of death for jihadist Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who together with his brother perpetrated the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

DZHOKHAR TSARNAEV’S life is a meager compensation for the murder of Martin Richard, Lingzi Lu, Krystle Campbell, and Sean Collier. But it is the highest price he can be made to pay under our system of justice, and a jury of his peers has unanimously recommended that he pay it.
From the outset, the death penalty was the sentence most Americans believed Tsarnaev should receive, assuming he was guilty of the grisly Boston Marathon bombing. Long before the case went to trial, all doubt of his guilt had vanished. Not even his lawyers tried to suggest otherwise. On the trial’s opening day, defense attorney Judy Clarke bluntly acknowledged: “It was him.”
What all these weeks in the federal courthouse in South Boston established was not that Tsarnaev is a murderer and a terrorist — that we knew. What was made brutally clear is that he feels no remorse for the blood he shed and the pain he caused. Witness after witness described, in heartbreaking and agonizing testimony, what Tsarnaev’s bombs had wrought. The jury saw and heard it all, and drew the logical conclusion: The heartbreak and agony were the whole point.
Like Timothy McVeigh, like the 9/11 hijackers, like the bombers of Pan Am Flight 103, like the Fort Hood shooter, Tsarnaev and his brother set out to slaughter as many victims as possible, and to do so with a maximum of cruelty and horror. Under federal law, the death penalty is meant to be reserved for the worst of the worst. Tsarnaev placed a nail-filled pressure-cooker bomb a few inches behind an 8-year-old boy, and sauntered off to buy a quart of milk after the child was blown to pieces. If such a murderer doesn’t qualify as worst of the worst, no one does.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s life is a meager compensation for the murders of Krystle Campbell, Sean Collier, Lingzi Lu, and Martin Richard, but it is the highest price our system of justice allows.

Opponents of capital punishment strenuously faulted the Justice Department for seeking the death penalty. They argued that the bombing was a terrorist attack aimed at Massachusetts, which has rejected the death penalty as a matter of policy. But it was Americans that Tsarnaev determined to terrorize and kill. The message he scrawled in the boat where he was found expressed hatred for America.
It would have been a dereliction of the government’s duty had it shied away from prosecuting him to the full extent of the law.
Copley Square was repaired long ago; there is no sign of the blood and gore and rubble of that awful day in 2013. But the destruction Tsarnaev caused will last a lifetime — in shattered families that will never be made whole, in physical wounds that will never fully heal, in emotional trauma that will never be shaken off. Above all, in the death of innocents who will never again smile, or dream, or love.
Human justice is imperfect. But in returning a verdict of death for the Boston Marathon bomber, 12 Massachusetts jurors have come as close as they could.
(Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe).

I have always opposed the imposition of the death penalty in the United States while recognizing that the Church has always taught that the state has the right to impose the death penalty.
Here is Saint John Paul II speaking on the subject during his visit to the United States:

D. Passages on the Death Penalty from Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), 1995

55. … Moreover, “legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for someone responsible for another’s life, the common good of the family or of the state.”44 Unfortunately, it happens that the need to render the aggressor incapable of causing harm sometimes involves taking his life. In this case, the fatal outcome is attributable to the aggressor whose action brought it about, even though he may not be morally responsible because of a lack of the use of reason.45

56. This is the context in which to place the problem of the death penalty. On this matter there is a growing tendency, both in the church and in civil society, to demand that it be applied in a very limited way or even that it be abolished completely. The problem must be viewed in the context of a system of penal justice ever more in line with human dignity and thus, in the end, with God’s plan for man and society. The primary purpose of the punishment which society inflicts is “to redress the disorder caused by the offense.”46 Public authority must redress the violation of personal and social rights by imposing on the offender an adequate punishment for the crime, as a condition for the offender to regain the exercise of his or her freedom. In this way authority also fulfills the purpose of defending public order and ensuring people’s safety, while at the same time offering the offender an incentive and help to change his or her behavior and be rehabilitated.47

It is clear that for these purposes to be achieved, the nature and extent of the punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon, and ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: In other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare if not practically nonexistent.

In any event, the principle set forth in the new Catechism of the Catholic Church remains valid: “If bloodless means are sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public order and the safety of persons, public authority must limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.”48

44 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2265. (Referring to 2266 prior to the modifications of September, 1997).

45 Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Thelogiae, II-II, q. 64, a. 7; St. Alphonsus de Liguori, Theologia Moralis, 1, III,; tr. 4, c. 1, dub. 3.

46 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2266.

I published my first Pastoral Letter in 1976 as Bishop of the Diocese of Pennsacola-Tallahassee [ ]  in an effort to prevent the execution by the State of Florida of a man accused of murder, about whose conviction there was some doubt as to the man’s guilt.  In the letter I argued that our system of justice in the United States is so flawed, with so many persons having been executed who were, after their death, exonerated of the crime for which they had been executed.  This was all to frequently the case in the Southern States where racism played too large a role in prosecutions and jury decisions.
For secularists, atheists, and others who do not believe in morality, I offer a view on life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.   One can justify it as a more painful punishment since it involves years of confinement to a small cell without much contact with nature and extreme psychological punishment through separation from human contact.
Also, because our judicial system tries to achieve justice to prevent the mistakes I referred to above, felons convicted of murder are usually allowed to make many appeals of their death sentence with the result that court costs and lawyers fees (usually paid by the people since most felons are defended by public defenders at public cost) that add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars more than the cost of imprisoning a felon for the rest of his life.
I do not believe in capital punishment as a deterrent to violent crimes committed by others.  In the case in 1976 in Florida, there were more murders committed in the 24 hour period following the execution of John Spenkelink than in any other 24-hour period in Florida history.  Cetainly, in the case of Dzhokhar Tsarhaev his death will be viewed by jihadist terrorists as martyrdom resulting in spending eternity in the company of 24 virgins.
– Abyssum

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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