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Death Penalty for Murder by Terrorism Research Paper


McVeigh Timothy was convicted for killing more than 168 individuals in the 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City. He was to face a death sentence through a lethal injection. After he had lost more than two appeals in the courts, he gave up the idea of filing another appeal. Therefore, he decided to face the death sentence for the alleged terrorist act. With the existence of further evidence on his case, his execution delayed by almost a month.

However, he was executed after a while. Many cases exist of individuals taking part in acts of terrorism. Even though the military and other law enforcement agencies arrest them, the prosecution process takes longer than anticipated. Consequently, they are sometimes acquitted of the charges due to a lack of enough evidence. Without substantive evidence, it is impossible to initiate a full trial and take appropriate action against those individuals. The acquitted suspects end up committing more crimes leading to death.


The case of Timothy is the first instance of the death sentence against a terrorist in the United States. It sparked the debate on whether it is legal to execute foreigners in the United States if suspected to be terrorists (McDonnell, 2012). The topic attracts the public interest and critical debate is essential. The argument presented here is based on the idea that the United States government should no longer be lenient to terrorists.

Instead, it needs to take action on the killers and make them pay for their heinous crimes. The government, especially the department of justice, must ensure that the killers are executed. By facing death penalties, terrorists will have paid for the lives of people they killed. In addition, killing terrorists stop their future activities (Bianchi & Naqvi, 2014).

Debate on Death Penalty for Terrorism

The debate about the extermination of the terrorists is one that sparks rage among the human rights activists, the pro-justice individuals, and organizations across the world. The law enforcement agencies try their best to get rid of the terrorists and their activities in the United States and other parts of the world. On the other hand, the human rights movements and the justice department maintain a watchful eye over the suspicious organizations.

The measures taken are to ensure that terrorists do not breach the law by carrying out dangerous activities leading to death and loss of property (Roach, 2015). The pressure from these entities can lead to the breach of legal rights as they try to make the nation safe from extremist groups. As the debate about the death penalty for the terrorists ensues, it is essential to consider certain factors when making key decisions on the issue (McDonnell, 2012).

The first factor in the debate should be about the image of the justice system in the United States. The Department of Justice is one of the most superior legal systems in the world. It upholds human rights and the necessary legal requirements as stipulated by international laws. Furthermore, it is important to note that the United States government has been at the forefront in ensuring that various democratic and human rights prevail. Killing is a grave violation of democracy and human rights. According to Congress (2012), it would be ironic to let terrorists go unpunished because they kill innocent people. The situation calls for a fair hearing and a more severe sentence to the terrorists.

On the other hand, giving very harsh and inhumane penalties such as death sentence to such individuals would be viewed as an infringement of human rights. Such judgment against a terror suspect could lead to protests by the nations whose citizens are accused of terrorism (Laser, 2011). That situation puts the United States government and the rest of the world in a dilemma. Consequently, it becomes difficult to establish laws that would violate human rights because they are protecting the citizens and property. There is an ongoing debate about the need to respect international laws on human rights. However, the United States government has the sole duty to protect its citizens from harmful activities of the terrorist organizations (Bianchi & Naqvi, 2014).

The nation, just as it has been advocating for human rights all over the globe, has also been leading when it comes to condemning the terrorist activities. It would be surprising to see the US fighting terrorists in other parts of the world such as the Middle East and African region while suffering from the same vice. Because of that, the various law enforcement agencies and the justice system in the country should consider the lives of the American citizens first. Afterward, they could assess their activities to check if they integrate with the legal aspects established to protect human rights (Bianchi & Naqvi, 2014). Terrorist organizations, groups, or individual terrorists destroy the lives of American citizens and other people in large numbers. It would be fair to kill them as a way of making them pay for their atrocious crimes.

Role of Justice Systems and Agencies

In order to justify the death sentence handed to the terrorists, cases of corrupt governments and weak states are cited as the promoters of terrorism. For instance, some of the war-torn nations in the Gulf region do not have strong institutions to initiate a proper legal action against their citizens involved in an act of terrorism. When a citizen from those nations involves in terrorist activities in the US, the individual has to be prosecuted accordingly (Bianchi & Naqvi, 2014).

The prosecution process must take place in the region that the person commits the offense. Certain countries have high levels of impunity whereby people commit atrocious crimes and escape the full force of law. The failure to execute the terrorists can be fatal to the US government and the rest of the world. It is because the freed terrorists would participate in other terror activities in the future. Even if they are confined within the correctional facilities, they can possibly devise a way of conducting their operations within the prisons and cause more havoc in the country. Because of that, the only way to deal with terror gangs is to terminate their lives (Roach, 2015).

In many instances, prosecutors fail to gather enough evidence needed to sentence terrorists to death. However, the only way to protect the American citizens and other targeted states from the Islamist extremists and other terrorist groups is through the death penalty for acts of terrorism (Roach, 2015). The justice system has a greater role to play when it comes to dealing with terrorism in the United States and other parts of the world.

Congress also plays a vital responsibility in controlling terrorist activities. It needs to pass laws that ensure the terrorists are sentenced to death provided there exists evidence showing that the accused is a terrorist (Roach, 2015). It is important to note that terrorists cannot provide the required evidence to prosecute and sentence them. Mostly, they tend to conceal any form of evidence that can be used against them in case they are apprehended.

As a result, they frustrate the prosecutors in their effort to gather substantive evidence. In addition, it becomes difficult to provide vital proof showing their involvement in those activities. In this regard, the Department of justice and the law enforcement agencies have the responsibility of gathering enough evidence. They have the duty to apprehend, prosecute, and sentence the suspects and perpetrators to death (Bergen, 2016).

The justice system carries out its roles as stipulated by the law. However, they should know that terrorist activities only end when the terrorists die. That gives them the responsibility to examine the evidence before them with much care to ensure they do not give lenient sentences to the extremists (Bergen, 2016). It is because the action of one terrorist can lead to the deaths of hundreds or thousands of people. Therefore, it is better to sacrifice the life of the terrorists in order to save many other lives. For that reason, any argument concerning the justice for terrorists other than the death sentence is unrealistic.

The fundamental human rights stipulated in international laws emphasize the need to protect the lives of people. The law extends to protect terrorists from death the sentence. Arguably, the lives of the masses are more important than the lives of dangerous terrorists. Therefore, international laws should be changed to have provisions for dealing with the terrorists in the US and other parts of the world (Congress, 2012).


In conclusion, the call for the extermination of terrorists in the United States and all over the world should be encouraged. Therefore, the major powers of the world should consider the death penalty to terrorists as the best way to protect their citizens from atrocities. Enacting such laws would help the world to get rid of the frequent bombings that claim hundreds or thousands of lives. Whatever the reason, a terrorist is always a dangerous person and a death sentence is the only way to eliminate such a person from the public context.


Bergen, P. (2016). United States of jihad: Investigating America’s homegrown terrorists. New York, NY: Crown.

Bianchi, A., & Naqvi, Y. (2014). Enforcing international law norms against terrorism. Oxford, England: Hart Publishing.

Congress (2012). Congressional record. Washington D.C, DC: Government Printing Office.

Laser, Y. (2011). Death sentence. New York, NY: Authors on Line Ltd.

McDonnell, T. (2012). The United States, international law, and the struggle against terrorism. Cheltenham, England: Routledge.

Roach, K. (2015). Comparative counter-terrorism law. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Death Penalty for Murder by Terrorism'. 2 September.

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