BOSTON (AP) — A jury sentenced Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death Friday for the Boston Marathon bombing, sweeping aside pleas that he was just a “kid” who fell under the influence of his fanatical older brother.
The death penalty. You’re for it, or you’re against it. Few are ambivalent.
I am among the few. I was for it, and then I was a media witness to the execution of serial killer Michael Ross. Here’s how I fell into the lukewarm well of ambivalence.
Ross was executed just over ten years ago. May 13, 2005. Just after 2 a.m., at Osborn Correctional in Somers, CT. He passed on a special last meal, and when asked if he had a last statement, he said his final words: “No, thank you.” He was given a lethal injection, and with a brief gasp and shudder, he went to sleep. Forever.
We were separated from the families of his 8 victims by a curtain. They were understandably pleased to see the killer of their loved ones put to death. Ross was a rapist and murderer. His death was far less terrifying than those of his victims. He wanted to die. He got to know where and when. Those 8 women, ranging in age from 14 to 25, never had a chance or a choice.
I was neither pleased nor displeased to witness his death. I have never mentally replayed the end of Michael Ross.
What I do remember, though, is where he died. Not the death chamber, but the prison itself. Osborn housed the death chamber, but it was not a “supermax” facility. Still, being escorted down the hall, hearing the echo of my footsteps off the concrete, enveloped in drab olive and gray, wondering who was behind the ironclad cell doors with tiny windows…that was when I fell into ambivalence about the execution, about the death penalty.
What, I wondered, was worse. A sterile, controlled death? Or life in a hellhole with no chance of ever getting out?
What is worse?
I don’t know.