Death not the right punishment for Boston bomber

Don’t make him a martyr for his cause.

The terrorism trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev opened with the prosecutor describing how the defendant and his brother, Tamerlan, placed homemade bombs in their backpacks on an ideal day in 2013. They then calmly dropped them near the finish line of the Boston Marathon to “punish America for wars in Muslim territories.”

Three people died and 264 were maimed and injured. Days later, a police officer and Tamerlan were killed in shootings as the brothers attempted to escape a massive manhunt.

But America was never punished.

Tsarnaev, convicted Wednesday of all 30 federal charges against him, now awaits a second verdict on whether he should be put to death. That will be decided by the same jury that heard overwhelming evidence about his guilt.

We do not believe Tsarnaev should be put to death. The defense, which presented piles of evidence with the goal of sparing Tsarnaev the death penalty, depicted him as an impressionable young man under the influence of an older brother who masterminded the attack.

We reject the theory that he is not fully responsible for his deeds. We also reject the notion that he should be given a life sentence with no parole to spare the nation the expense and drama of lengthy appeals. Or that sentencing him to rot in a super-max prison denies him the glory of being a martyr for his cause. Our opposition to the death penalty is rooted in a long-standing philosophical opposition to taking a life for vengeance.

Two years after the attack, Boston remains strong, and survivors and families of those murdered speak eloquently of the challenges of moving ahead. The first phase of the trial, which took place over 16 days in a courthouse three miles from the finish line, was uneventful, despite cries after his arrest for him to be treated as an enemy combatant in a military tribunal.

Instead of punishing America, the pair put our system and the resilience of our social fabric in the face of evil on display for the world.

The Editorial Board