With three people murdered initially at the Boston Marathon, and more during the manhunt, the death penalty seems like a worthy topic of conversation.
One of the absolute rules of the Bible is that no one has the authority to overlook or leave unpunished intentional homicide. There is room to argue about the rules as to how “intentional” figures into concepts such as premeditated and non-premeditated but the point remains. Murder gets the death penalty. As it stands written:
“From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image” (Genesis 9.5b, 6).
Naturally, this clear statement about justice in the case of murder has been denied and demoted by the government of Massachusetts. The state does not allow the death penalty for murder. The common mistake is to consider such a position compassionate. But it is actually a denial of the basic human rights of the victims.
In the ancient world there were many cultures were being found guilty of murder meant that one had to pay a fine to family members. But these same cultures permitted fathers to have live and death authority over their children. In a culture where a father can kill his children at will, murder is mostly an offense against the family, not the ultimate violation of an individual. Ancient Israel had a strong family-based culture, but it made it clear that no one in any family had the authority to overlook a murder in exchange for a fine. “Moreover, you shall accept no ransom for the life of a murderer, who is guilty of death, but he shall be put to death” (Number 35.31). No one has the power to say that a murder victim can be forgotten and his death unavenged. When you murder someone, you remove the person who has the authority to overlook your offense. The rest of us are supposed to honor the value of his life, not deny it.
What is interesting here is that, from what I read in the news, the Federal Government is probably going to charge Dzhokhar Tsarnaev with a capital crime. If he is found guilty, then the blood of the slain will be avenged. It would be great to see how strongly Bostonians object to that penalty. If they are OK with the penalty, then why did they remove it from their own state? Is it now the role of the Federal Government to intervene in deficient state legal systems and use the death penalty in “more serious” versions of murder? If the residents of Massachusetts want the Federal Government to execute him, then why have they approved of a government that refuses to do so?
The whole thing is backwards according to the principles of Federalism. Tsarnaev killed specific people in Boston. The state of Massachusetts is supposed to be the primary agency for ensuring justice for people in its territory. By giving the power of justice to the Federal Government, the deaths of Tsarnaev’s victims is treated as of secondary important to the “attack on the nation.” I think this is exactly the opposite of reality. Yes the nation was attacked, but it was a secondary victim to the attack on the people in Boston. The state of Massachusetts should be prosecuting and punishing these crimes and, thereby, also addressing the attack on the nation as a whole.
Whether you agree with my “federalist” instincts or not, if Massachusetts refuses to bring back the death penalty for murder, while rejoicing if and when Tsarnaev is executed, then it is a state of hypocrisy.