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Death Penalty for Boston Bomber Doesn't Deliver Justice

Death Penalty for Boston Bomber Doesn't Deliver Justice

In response a federal jury's decision today to condemn Boston Marathon bombing perpetrator Dzhokar Tsarnaev to death, Rabbi Jonah Pesner, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, made the following statement:

"As a member of the Boston community who has run the marathon, I personally witnessed the pain that was seared into the city by the Tsarnaev brothers’ barbarity two years ago. Those who were killed and injured, as well as their families, will never be restored to the same peace and well-being they knew before their lives were forever transformed by a horrific act of terror. Their pain is shared not just by the people of Boston who have been remarkable in their courage and support for those directly affected, but by all people of goodwill who reject the kind of fear and division the bombers sought to sow in our society.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev must bear responsibility for his actions and the jury’s guilty verdict after extensive testimony and deliberation was a reflection of the best aspects of our nation’s justice system. Yet today’s decision by the jury to impose the death penalty is a sad reminder that our justice system remains critically flawed. The taking of any human life never justifies the taking of more human life. For centuries, rabbis have found the death penalty repugnant. We must make use of other methods to hold the guilty responsible. May the memories of those who lives were lost in these acts of violence more than two years ago be forever a blessing and a comfort to their families. And may our nation never again know the pain of such acts of hate."

The Reform Movement has long been opposed to the death penalty, following rabbinic interpretations and Jewish tradition that effectively support abolishing the death penalty centuries ago.  Though the Torah mandated death for some crimes, the rabbis of the Talmud intentionally made its application so complex and difficult that it became virtually impossible to use. You can see existing resolutions on capital punishment from the Union for Reform Judaism and Central Conference of American Rabbis here.

Published: 5/15/2015

Categories: Social Justice