In many ways, it would be wrong if the District Attorney for Los Angeles decides to seek the death penalty in the case of Juan Alvarez, the man who killed 11 people by trying to commit suicide by train. Unfortunately for him (and of course, the passengers on the train), he decided at the last moment to abort the attempt, leaving his car wedged between the railroad tracks.

Steve Cooley, the Los Angeles County district attorney, said in an interview that he would not decide whether to seek the death penalty until the case was thoroughly reviewed by his office.

His voice firm with anger, Mr. Cooley called Mr. Alvarez a self-centered man whose aborted suicide attempt on the Glendale railroad crossing led to 11 deaths in the early morning darkness Wednesday. Two hundred people were injured. The body of one man was burned so badly that it had yet to be identified.

This is not to say that Alvarez deserves to be coddled, but a state-sponsored killing of a suicidal criminal seems contrary to the values of our society. Here in America, suicide is almost never seen as strength (for example, a way to preserve your honor), but as weakness. In general, we want people to live, whether they want to or not.

With Alvarez, being sent to death row would mean that the justice system would want him to live, but only long enough so that he could be killed. This seems ironic.