On Tuesday, Salon columnist Jonathan Zimmerman pleaded that America spare Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev from the death penalty because the Federal government will execute him only for political reasons, not because he murdered three people and wounded 260 more on that fateful day one year ago.
Zimmerman avoids the usual moral arguments against the death penalty, but instead focuses on the Federal government's flawed political motivations for dishing out the punishment, citing historical instances where executions reflected more the passions of an angry mob over a desire for true justice.
In Minnesota, 1862, 303 Lakota Sioux were sentenced to death for attacking whites who had settled on reservation land. President Lincoln commuted most of the executions, but allowed 38 to stay fearing that "white vigilantes in Minnesota would kill all of the accused Lakota."
In 1861, slave trader Daniel Gordon was executed shortly after the outbreak of the Civil War for transporting "900 Africans for the purpose of selling them." Zimmerman doesn't sympathize with the passing of a slave trader, but feels his execution came only in response to the war, noting that "most of his fellow outlaws got off scot free"
Finally, Zimmerman cites the infamous Julius and Ethel Rosenberg case where the United States executed the couple for giving scientific secrets to Soviet intelligence. He conceded that historical records show that Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were not victims of a McCarthy witch hunt, but did, in fact, give secrets to the Soviets. However, Zimmerman feels they were executed strictly for political reasons because "the information that Julius provided was of little strategic value to the Soviet nuclear program, especially compared to the secrets divulged by other spies."
Despite Zimmerman's refrain from moral pleas, he concluded that he doesn't have a "single ounce of sympathy for Tsarnaev," but "nobody can really know who is evil enough to deserve the ultimate penalty. And that’s ultimately why nobody should receive it."