Closure for Boston Bombing Victims: Death Penalty, Life in Prison, or Forgiveness?

CNN.com U.S. News, New York City, NY – When a federal jury sentenced Boston Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death last month, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh issued a statement expressing “hope [that] this verdict provides a small amount of closure” to everyone affected by the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing that killed four people and wounded hundreds more.

Like Mayor Walsh, most everyone hopes the victims of the bombing — including the families of the four people murdered by the Tsarnaev brothers — can find some relief from their anguish. Will this death sentence for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev help them?

Boston 3Bill and Denise Richard, whose 8-year-old son was killed in the bombing, don’t think so. They recently wrote an open letter in the Boston Globe urging the Justice Department to take the death penalty “off the table.”

“The continued pursuit of that punishment could bring years of appeals and prolong reliving the most painful day of our lives,” wrote the Richards, who suffered severe injuries from the bombing; their 7-year-old daughter lost her left leg.

For many victims, feelings of pain and loss may never go away, regardless of how Tsarnaev is punished. But psychological research has found that one way to achieve greater peace of mind is through forgiveness. 

Researchers like Dr. Robert Enright, co-founder of the International Forgiveness Institute in Madison, WI, stress that forgiving does not mean absolving an offender of guilt; instead, it means deliberately letting go of feelings of anger and vengeance toward the offender — a way to stop ruminating on the offense and free yourself of the power it has over you.Boston 4

“It’s a way of saying, ‘I’m going to take my life back because I’m getting swallowed up by hatred,” according to Loren Toussaint, an associate professor of psychology at Luther College (Decorah, Iowa), who studies forgiveness. “It’s an act of transformative empowerment … that allows someone to move forward.”

Read the full story including research results from crime victims on the effects of punishment vs forgiveness:Does Death Penalty Bring Closure?

5 thoughts on “Closure for Boston Bombing Victims: Death Penalty, Life in Prison, or Forgiveness?

  1. V.E.G. June 10, 2015 / 10:44 am

    Just five months later in the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., a gunman did shot fatally a dozen people, injured three and the gunman was shot dead by Dorian DeSantis. Jennifer Bennett forgave the gunman, possibly. This building is now the Joshua Humpheys building. After that, Bob and Colleen Weiss in an another event forgave the gunman with ancestry related to the American founding father, John Witherspoon. Richard Martinez probably forgave the gunman for killing his only son, Christopher Ross Michaels-Martinez, and he said “NOT ONE MORE!” Martinez was an attorney and God bless.

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  2. V.E.G. June 10, 2015 / 11:06 am

    Don’t forget the heroes of September 16, 2013: Arthur Lee Daniels, Gerald Eugene “Jerry” Read, and Richard Michael “Mike” Ridgell.

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  3. Samantha June 18, 2015 / 8:41 am

    Thank you for making the distinction between forgiveness and legal pardon. Even if some victims forgive, this does not mean that the judge should pardon the offenders. Jail-time while victims forgive surely is not inconsistent.

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  4. V.E.G. January 8, 2016 / 2:57 pm

    Also, Anastasia Boylan, a woman of Ulster origin, forgave the perpetrator and Jennifer Thalasinos forgave the perpetrators in California. Jennifer’s husband is of Greek origin.

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  5. V.E.G. June 14, 2016 / 12:28 pm

    Also, Cesar Flores forgave the gunman in Orlando. Flores is from Guatemala. Now, Orlando shooting is the deadliest mass shooting in the history of North America! It was anti-homosexual crime! Never, ever hate homosexuals! Ryan White once said, “God loves homosexuals much as He loves everyone else.”

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