No, the death penalty applied to the French cartoonists and editors is not appropriate punishment for even the most egregious examples of bad taste and lack of concern for the feelings and beliefs of millions of people around the world. Rightfully, the murderers should be considered just that and dealt with accordingly.
Nevertheless, free speech is not, and should not be, absolute. Cartoonist ridicule and hateful caricature of blacks, Jews and other ethnic minorities once were commonplace and now would not be tolerated in either the United States or France. It should not be tolerated now when applied to Muslims, and it is clear from its latest best-selling edition that Charlie Hebdo still either doesn’t get it or doesn’t care if it offends millions who have done no wrong.
When someone deliberately and repeatedly pulls a tiger’s tail, and the tiger is a savage beast, as are the Islamic extremists, it should not be surprising that sooner or later the tiger will bite.