In light of the proposed death penalty for 20-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, “Jesus weeps … again” at the injustice, the Conference of Major Superiors of Men said in a statement Wednesday.
"Christ calls us to love our enemies and travel the long, difficult, but humanizing and liberating road to reconciliation," the conference said.
The CMSM statement came in response to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announcing the federal government will seek the death penalty against Tsarnaev, currently being held in federal prison for his alleged role in the Boston Marathon attacks.
The Catholic church opposes the death penalty in nearly all cases, saying that "the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity are very rare, if not practically nonexistent." For some, Tsarnaev’s case is no exception.
"The death penalty is sort of an illusion (that) we can protect life by taking it," said Catherine Jarboe, director for Catholic State Networks and Organizations at the Catholic Mobilizing Network to End the Use of the Death Penalty. "We’re perpetuating the cycle of violence."
CMSM said it weeps for “all the harm done” at the bombings in April, including the harm Tsarnaev and his family felt
"Dzhokhar both significantly contributed to the harm yet also experienced harm," the CMSM said. "Our political leadership continues to deepen the harm and wounds by advancing the use of the death penalty."
CMSM is made up of the leaders of men’s religious orders who represent more 17,000 Catholic religious brothers and priests in the United States.
Tsarnaev, along with his brother, Tamerlan, was accused of planting two homemade pressure-cooker bombs by the finish line of the Boston Marathon in April 2013, killing three and injuring some 260 people, according to The Associated Press. Tamerlan died in a police shootout several days later.
At a Feb. 12 hearing, U.S. District Judge George O’Toole Jr. scheduled a Nov. 3 trial date for Tsarnaev, the AP said. This date comes nearly a year prior to the earliest date his lawyers requested.
Jarboe said a key issue of the death penalty is that it “takes focus away from the victim and (puts it) squarely on the offender.”
She also said the death penalty, which can take up to months and years of trials, delays the beginning of the healing process for the victims’ families.
Prosecutors predict the trial itself will last 12 weeks, The Boston Globe said. After that, if Tsarnaev is convicted, it could take around six weeks to present evidence to jurors, who will either recommend the death penalty or life imprisonment.
The United States is one of few “developed” countries to allow the death penalty, the CMSM said, “which speaks to a serious cultural deficiency.”
Thirty-two states practice death penalty as a legal sentence, a study from the Death Penalty Information Center said, as well as the U.S. Government and Military. Massachusetts does not practice the death penalty, but since Tsarnaev’s actions constitute as a federal crime, his trial will occur in federal court.
"The nature of the conduct at issue and the resultant harm compel this decision," Holder said in a Jan. 31 statement.
The CMSM said restorative justice is the more dignified choice.
"The truth is that the death penalty fails to humanize our lives," the CMSM said. "The love is about increasingly becoming a people of empathy, compassion and the courage to transcend our destructive habits."
Apart from Tsarnaev’s case, there have been other recent developments regarding the death penalty around the country.
On Feb. 11, the Wyoming Senate voted against considering a bill that would have allowed firing squads for execution, the AP said. State law allows lethal injection as the method of punishment, but Republican State Sen. Bruce Burns, who sponsored the bill, said states often struggle to acquire the appropriate drugs.
On Feb. 17, a pharmacy in Tulsa, Okla., refused to provide pentobarbital, a lethal drug, for the Feb. 26 execution of convicted killer Michael Taylor, who is on death row in Missouri. As of Thursday, the state of Missouri found a new supplier of the drug.
"A thin young man. Looked athletic. Very polite. Spoke excellent English. He got along well with other boys he was with. They were joking amongst each other. He seemed just like a regular neighborhood kid.” - George MacMasters
A recent legal filing has given further credence to the view that accused Boston marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev may not be willing to accept a plea bargain.
Attorney General Eric Holder’s January 30th announcement authorizing Federal prosecutors to seek the death penalty for Tsarnaev (if convicted), does not appear to have alarmed attorney’s for the accused in any way: in fact, they now appear wholly intent on taking the case to trial.This is in stark contrast to virtually all of death penalty lawyer Judy Clarke’s previous cases, none of which have ever proceeded to the trial stage. For example, Jared Lee Loughner, James Holmes and bomber Ted Kaczynski all accepted plea deals in their efforts to avoid a trial and face possible execution.Plea bargain off the tableThe filing itself revealed several troubling aspects relating to discovery issues, including outstanding requests and the government reneging on it’s promise to provide copies of evidence solicited during the time agreed.
The most alarming issue arose from the defense’ assertion that they are still waiting to review over 2000 individual pieces of physical evidence that are currently being withheld by the FBI. The reason? The evidence is reportedly ‘still under analysis’. This is rather ironic considering the government’s long held contention over the ‘mountain of evidence’ it claims to possess against Tsarnaev: parts of which it now seems they have failed to fully investigate at all.
Tellingly, the government made no effort to deny this.
Under such circumstances it becomes obvious why a plea agreement will not be forthcoming. No defense attorney worth their salt would advise their client to push for a deal without having first had the opportunity to review the evidence in it’s entirety.
Neither would they ever advise such action if the investigation itself has proven to be lacking. The defense statement regarding the undisclosed evidence strongly suggests that this could indeed be the case.Dates pertinent to trial proceedingsThe filing also outlined a number of key dates preferable to the defense for future trial proceedings. Attorney’s for Tsarnaev requested:
- That a trial begin no earlier than September 2015
- Motions challenging the death penalty be filed by November 2014
- Change of venue motions filed by January 2015
- Requests concerning jury selection and voir dire to be made by June 2015Predictably, the prosecution deemed these dates unfavourable and instead expressed a preference for earlier assignations.Tsarnaev standing tall in the face of adversity?It must be noted that at this stage of the proceedings one would expect attorney’s for the accused to give the impression that they are willing to engage in a full trial. However, every case is different and must be judged accordingly. Tsarnaev pleaded not guilty and has been battling a socio/political lynch mob clearly intent on forcing him into a plea agreement ever since. The coercive prosecutorial tactics used to invoke such a strategy are now well documented, of which the threat of execution is merely the latest in a long and unsavoury line.
Yet throughout the process Tsarnaev’s lawyers have fought back and it is now becoming increasingly obvious why: the push for a plea deal is not considered paramount, nor an integral part of a blue print to save his life. The evidence that the government once insisted was ‘air tight’ no longer appears worthy of such a supreme claim - after all they are still investigating it.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev evidently wants a trial. In the interests of justice for all, who could really blame him?
Wow…sounds like a crazy busy day. November of this year is laughable and they know it. Even the trial for Aza, Dias and Robel isn’t until the last day of June. And this discovery issue has really gotten ridiculous.
Until the Lion tells his side of the story, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the Hunter. -Zimbabwean Proverb