Earl had to die, goodbye Earl

We need a break, let’s go out to the lake, Earl

We’ll pack a lunch, and stuff you in the trunk, Earl Is that alright?

Good! Let’s go for a ride, Earl, hey!

goodbye-earlThe song “Goodbye Earl” hit the country airwaves in 2000, and even if it was plainly a joke, it caused trouble between the Dixie Chicks and their label as well as with several radio stations not too keen on playing this murder ballad enticing listeners to take the law into their own hands.

This revenge filled anthem became quite popular and represented the burning desire to become a diehard vigilante when faced with a vulnerable victim of domestic abuse and her torturer.

It is a perfect representation of the knee jerk reaction most people have when confronted with the plight of an innocent victim. They want the perpetrator to pay and die. But not unlike the expression ‘I could kill you’ is only words, the feeling certainly subsides with time and hindsight allows for a more rational and fair solution.

Killing Earl or anyone else to punish them for their actions should never be an option.

chocolate-death-rownAs a Canadian, I am relieved that the death penalty was abolished and that our trials are not marred with this plague. Putting an inmate to death is a moot point so we save a lot of time and money while managing to keep some dignity in the process.

The majority of countries in Western Europe, North America and South America have turned their back on capital punishment. The United States remain attached to this barbaric practice that they share with Iraq, Iran, North Korea and China. They say birds of a feather flock together. What they fail to realize is that this mentality has seeped into the population and renders their citizens eager to see people die, sometimes at the drop of a hat. The televised high profile trials boosted by the media are feeding a strong appetite for cruelty and revenge.

What happened to forgiveness and restorative justice? In an era where terrorists wreak havoc all over the world and are targeting the US, you would think that their legal system would make a concerted effort not to appear as cruel and barbaric as their opponents.

A costly practice

We all know by now that it costs way more money to execute an inmate than to keep him or her incarcerated for the rest of their natural life. A study done in 2011, indicates that California spent more than $4 billion on capital punishment since it was reinstated in 1978.

Death penalty trials are 20 times more expensive than the ones seeking life in prison.

No deterrent

All the studies done scientifically have failed to prove that executions deter people from committing  a crime. States without the death penalty have lower murder rates. You would think that criminals would become aggressive to eliminate witnesses if there is a possibility they can face capital punishment. In the US, the highest regional murder rate is in the South where 80% of executions take place.

Wrongful convictions

high-costs-of-wrongful-convictionsThe execution of an innocent person can never be rectified. It has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that some men were wrongfully executed in recent years for crimes they did not commit. Many inmates have been released from death row and in some cases, just a few days from execution. The error rate is unacceptable when a life is on the line.

Race and poverty

The social status and race of defendants in capital cases are decisive factors to determine if they will live or die. We only have to check prison statistics to see the truth of the matter in black and white.

The death penalty is a crapshoot

The clout and talent of legal counsel and the geographical area where a crime occurs become the determining factors in death penalty cases and not the crime itself. It is often referred as a lethal lottery. About 100 people or less are sentenced to death every year and 22,000 homicides are committed. It’s a scary proposition.

The death penalty goes against almost every religion and common ethical values

Almost every religion in the US is against capital punishment. In spite of isolated passages in scriptures, it is considered immoral in itself.

Fortune spent on the death penalty could be used to assist families of murder victims or fund restorative justice programs

The death penalty and its numerous automatic appeals extend the process prior to the execution itself. It is very hard on the family of victims and very costly as well. They could receive more therapy and some help with counseling, restitution and hotlines without prolonging their agony. Restorative programs are a very effective way to help victims.

Public defenders die-in protest

Public defenders die-in protest

Capital cases attorneys are known to be lacking experience and skills

If the quality of the representation is lacking, the defendants do not stand a chance. The court appointed attorneys are often overworked, underpaid and lacking the experience necessary for capital cases.

Life with or without parole  – that is the question

Some believe that life without parole is a sensible alternative to the death penalty. In Canada, we have a cap of 25 years and determine along the way and based on many factors, if the person will do more time or in some instances, be declared a dangerous offender.

There are cases when it is impossible to release an inmate into society because of the dangerous nature of the crimes, but it is the exception. Pope Francis recently said that life without parole is a hidden death penalty. I agree with his point of view. How can you expect to rehabilitate a person who has no hope? It is inhuman and totally missing the point, especially in light of the Supermax prisons springing up in the US and where life becomes a constant torture with total social deprivation.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev



Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was recently sentenced to death for his role in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. The jury deliberated for more than 14 hours before coming up with this lethal decision.

Because it happened in Boston where people are pretty civilized and liberals, there was a lot of opposition to the death penalty. Some of the survivors and members of the victims’ families were against his execution. It triggered a debate in the country. How to treat terrorists to show the rest of their crew that they mean business in the US when someone threatens their way of life and attacks their citizens with extreme cruelty?

Dzhokhar and his older brother Tamerlan were born in the former Soviet republic of Kygystan, into an ethnically Chechen family and they immigrated to the United States in 2002. They lived a very disjointed life and after their arrival in America, it seemed that maybe the family had found some peace and a shelter from the storm.

The brothers ended up bombing and killing 3 people and injuring more than 170. An incredible carnage. While fleeing from the authorities, they killed a campus officer following a police chase.

Tarmerlan Tsarnaev was shot by the cops and Dzhokhar was later wounded and captured. He was charged with using a weapon of mass destruction and the prosecutors seeked the death penalty.  The White House had announced that Dzhokhar would not be tried as an enemy combatant, but as a U.S. citizen, and that he would be tried in a civilian court.



Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was born on July 22, 1993, and so many people are still wondering what led this young man to become a terrorist and if his brother’s influence was the main factor for his actions.

Even with perks offered by the US government to his family, his life as an immigrant could not have been that easy. And the fact that many young people in Western countries, the US and Europe are taking this tortured road should be an indication of the problem within.

It did not come out of nowhere. We hear more and more about ‘’radicalization’ and it is a growing phenomenon so we can try to analyze why it happened to these two brothers and what lesson or information can come out of it.


Radical beliefs do not always result in terrorism so it is very difficult to identify and control this growing trend. So far, the efforts have been more reactive than preventive. We can say for certainty that the ones who act out always feel marginalized in some way, in spite of appearing content or not in their new environment. Or is it that people were not really paying attention?

But what motivates an immigrant to adopt a lifestyle that seems not only reprehensible, but so alien to the prevailing culture? Sociologist Lorne Dawson from the University of Waterloo in Canada, is studying homegrown radicals to hopefully fill in some of the gaps.

’What little evidence exists now indicates terrorists generally are no more likely to suffer from psychological problems than the general population,’’ he said. As for the homegrown variety, some are second-generation immigrants struggling to find a place between their parents’ culture and Canadian society.

snake-charmerResearch done with extremists in Jordan and the Philippines point to a single motivation, what the academics call the “quest for personal significance,” leading them to join a community they believe gives their lives meaning, and adopting its ideology in an effort to be accepted.

When, for instance, they feel they are not important, they don’t matter, they are a speck of dust in some kind of uncaring universe, it increases psychological pain,” he said. “One way of assuaging this negative feeling is connecting through a group.”

That connection might occur in person or, in the case of “lone-wolf” radicals, through online correspondence with an extremist overseas, like ISIS members who have posted propaganda videos on the Internet. Once hooked, the home-grown radical may be willing to sacrifice his own life – as well as take others’ – thinking “they will have more in death than they had in life.”

The radicalized youth often seem dissatisfied with their existences.

These are not sacrificing anything for Allah … they’re sacrificing for attention,” says an expert. “They’re not happy with their lives. They’re not doing what they want to do. A lot of them are depressed. A lot of them are doing this as an indirect suicide.”

Tsarnaev defense

miriam-conradAn amazing defense team took on the case of the 19-year-old UMass Dartmouth student. Miriam Conrad and Judy Clarke were two of the lawyers defending him. Conrad who is the head of Boston’s Federal Public Defender Office, was Tsarnaev lead counsel.

She has been described as a terrorist sympathizer and an enemy combatant. The Detroit Free Press wrote that she “may have become America’s most reviled lawyer” after deciding to represent Tsarnaev.

She also has represented Reid, the shoe bomber, and Rezwan Ferdaus. Conrad used to work as a newspaper reporter, and she is keen on representing clients who are often reviled. “There are very few clients I’ve had who I didn’t like,” she told the Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly. “If you scratch the surface, many have had difficult lives, and as their lawyer, I sort of see them whole, not just as a person charged with a crime.”

Judy Clarke on the right

Judy Clarke on the right

Clarke is a renowned death penalty lawyer who defended Kaczynski and Jared Loughner, who shot Gabrielle Giffords in 2011. She also represented the infamous Susan Smith.

Tsarnaev was at the core of the argument to remove the death penalty. The defense made a point of demonstrating that he was acting under pressure from his older brother, and that he wasn’t a major participant in the bombing conspiracy.

He also fitted the mold of a radicalized youth, except that instead of being approached by an outside group, the evil lived within. His brother was obviously a very violent and dangerous person who could use emotions to entice him into this plot.

All they could do was try to save his life and it failed.

Public opinion

tsarnaev-flipping-birdDuring the penalty phase of the trial when Tsarnaev was already convicted of 30 felony counts related to the bombing, the media decided to publish a photo that captured him three months after the bombing while he waited in a holding cell for hours on his own. He is shown holding his finger in front of the camera and it appears that he is flipping the proverbial bird.

He is in his orange jumpsuit and the blurry image is supposed to be of a threatening young man with no remorse. In fact, if they had decided to publish the frozen image of the peace sign he also made, they could have concluded that he wanted to make peace with the country. This is how ridiculous this propaganda was.

Social media had a field day with this one and predicted that he would not be so cocky when given a lethal injection.

If you look at the entire video clip, instead of one frozen image, you can see a bored young man killing time and that his gesture meant nothing. It was not the work of a raging terrorist who was telling the world to go to hell.

Game over

ADX Supermax in Colorado

ADX Supermax in Colorado

During his sentencing, Tsarnaev apologized to his victims and admitted his participation. There was no arrogance or defiance in his demeanor. He will probably do his time at a Supermax prison until his execution.

The federal prosecutor bureau will decide whether he goes to ADX in Colorado or death row at the penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, to wait out the lengthy appeal process.

As soon as they come through the door … you see it in their faces,” former ADX warden Robert Hood said. “That’s when it really hits you. You’re looking at the beauty of the Rocky Mountains in the backdrop. When you get inside, that is the last time you will ever see it.”

The inmates are in isolation 23 hours a day in a small cell and they have little contact outside of guards and prison staff. They must wear leg irons, handcuffs and stomach chains when taken outside their cells and be escorted at all time. A recreation hour is allowed in an outdoor cage where only the sky is visible.

Tsarnaev might end up with other terrorists in the Special Security Unit, also called the H-Unit. This type of institutions should have no place in a civilized society.

Lesson learned?

I have read several comments stating that this young man will have all the time in the world to reflect on his actions. I am sorry, but going slowly insane in solitary confinement does not make any inmate reflect on his past and choose a better path. It is a slow death until he gets executed and all his appeals take place.

rehabilitationIt is not a deterrent either or a warning to other terrorists to stay away from the States and stop killing innocent Americans. On the contrary. It is another reason to say that they have another martyr because of the barbaric practices of the US.

What about rehabilitation and de-radicalization? Tsarnaev was a very young man and it is a proven fact that your brain is not fully developed at that age. Plus, he was surrounded by hatred and radicalism and no doubt very devoted to his brother. He felt displaced between several cultures and obviously did not get the help he needed. He was let down by both camps.

He fits the description of easily radicalized youth. Over sensitive, lost and looking for an identity. In his distorted mind, he came to believe that his actions would avenge the innocent Muslim victims of atrocities committed by the US army.

This is a vicious circle that will not be eradicated by killing innocent victims abroad in the name of a political ideology or executing bad apples at home. Earl should never be thrown in the trunk of a car and end up in the river for domestic violence. And Tsarnaev should have received life with possibility of ‘reform’. Showing him that we are human, might have converted him to decency, instead of demonstrating that after all, some elements of our society are no better than he is.

Earl and Tsarnaev don’t gotta die!

Update: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was flown from the Federal Medical Center in Massachusetts to the high security Federal Correctional Institution in Florence, Colorado. This penitentiary is not the Supermax, also known as ADX, which is one of several correctional facilities at the site in Florence. He is expected to ultimately end up on federal death row at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana.