Statement from Indiana Abolition Coalition on the Sentencing of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

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A jury has recommended the federal government execute Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. If sentenced to death, the government will kill him here, in Indiana.

The Indiana Abolition Coalition opposes the execution of Tsarnaev. We urge all Hoosiers to tell the federal government, “Not in my state.”

The execution would occur in Indiana because the federal government operates its death chamber at the United States Penitentiary in Terre Haute. The federal government has executed three people this century. Tsarnaev would join 61 other men awaiting execution by the federal government.

At this point, it is unclear how the government would execute Tsarnaev. Individual states that retain capital punishment have had trouble finding lethal injection drugs. Western democracies that previously supplied the drugs oppose the practice, and U.S. companies are reluctant to have their medications used for executions.

Federal executions have been relatively rare. No one was executed by the federal government in the 1970s, 1980s, or 1990s; three were killed since 2000.

Capital punishment is also relatively rare in Indiana; our state has not executed anyone since 2009. Yet, over a dozen face possible execution.

The Indiana Abolition Coalition opposes the execution of Tsarnaev and of all Americans. We believe there is no purpose execution can serve that life imprisonment cannot serve equally or better. Its implementation in the case of Tsarnaev would be solely for the purpose of vengeance. We do not believe this is a legitimate reason for killing in a civilized society.

We call on all Hoosiers to oppose Tsarnaev’s execution and help end executions in our state.

-Doris Parlette for the Board of Directors


I am a member of the board of directors for the Indiana Abolition Coalition. Our mission is to build consensus to end the death penalty in Indiana through education, collaboration and activism. For more information, visit us at indianaabolition.org or facebook.com/IndianaAbolitionCoalition.

Other Intelligence and Our Responsibility

Ex Machina is a thought-provoking new film centering on the near-future possibilities of artificial intelligence. It’s a terrific film that asks difficult questions and doesn’t flinch from providing answers or at least giving them serious consideration. Among these questions are the following:

  • What does it mean to be human?
  • What is our responsibility to other sentient beings?
  • If we develop the ability to create a form capable of independent thought, does that being have the right to self-determination? Or does it still function solely to serve our needs, regardless of its own ‘feelings’?
  • Do we have a responsibility to honor that intelligence in some way?

These questions are being explored in increasingly complex ways, through science fiction films like Ex Machina, Moon, and Her. Netflix is currently streaming an amazing series called Black Mirror. The episode Be Right Back deals explicitly with artificial intelligence, coincidentally starring Domhnall Gleeson of Ex Machina.

Machines are one thing. What about animals? I was struck while watching Ex Machina by the similarities to some of the questions raised in Blackfish, the documentary about orca whales held in captivity by Seaworld. That film raises some disturbing arguments about the treatment of whales in captivity and how it affects their mental, physical, and emotional health.

One position asserted by the filmmakers that is not in dispute, however, is the uncommon intelligence and highly developed brain structures of killer whales. What right do we have to enslave these highly intelligent beings? What right do we have to hold them in sterile swimming pools too small for their nature?

Movies have always done an excellent job of questioning man’s responsibility to those with artificial intelligence. From Metropolis to Blade Runner to Ex Machina, films have regularly give us an opportunity to conduct compelling thought experiments about intelligent beings different from us, whether they are made of organic or synthetic materials.

I know artificial intelligence is coming soon and we’ll be faced with these new and difficult questions, many without clear answers. However, let’s not forget that we are faced with these questions right now as they relate to natural intelligence (is that what it’s called?) and I often feel we are failing. If our treatment of intelligent, capable creatures like orcas is any indication, I don’t think future androids will be pleased. Assuming they have the capacity for emotion in addition to intelligence, that is.