MASSACHUSETTS (USA): VICTIMS IN BOSTON MARATHON BOMBINGS ARE SPLIT ON DEATH PENALTY
April 21, 2015: The jury in the Boston Marathon bombing trial reconvenes Tuesday at the federal courthouse here to decide whether to sentence Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the convicted bomber, to death or to life in prison with no chance of parole.
The 1st phase of the trial, which lasted a month, was a foregone conclusion, once Mr. Tsarnaev's lawyers admitted he was involved in the bombings and all but told the jury to find him guilty.
But the penalty phase will be far more contentious, emotional and unpredictable, with Mr. Tsarnaev's life on the line at a time when the debate over the death penalty is intensifying. Prosecutors will argue for death, even as some of the survivors and the families of victims who died have asked that Mr. Tsarnaev's life be spared.
On April 16, the parents of Martin Richard, the 8-year-old boy killed at the marathon, asked the government to take the death penalty off the table because it would mean endless appeals and delay their ability to move on. The Richard family helped Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston unveil a banner at the site of 1 of the blasts that hit the 2013 Boston Marathon, on the 2nd anniversary of the attack.
Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes, a newly married couple who both lost legs during the 2013 bombings, made a recent statement, saying: "We must overcome the impulse for vengeance."
And the sister of an M.I.T. police officer whom Mr. Tsarnaev killed has said she thought that the death penalty would bring neither peace nor justice. Calls by survivors or victims' families for the death penalty, however, have been more muted. Among those who feel strongly is Liz Norden; 2 of her sons each lost a leg in the blasts. She has said that because he destroyed so many lives, Mr. Tsarnaev deserves "the ultimate justice."
These expressions both pro and con have presumably not reached the ears of the jurors, who have been ordered to avoid all media coverage of the case and were even told not to attend this year's marathon on Monday. Carmen Ortiz, the United States attorney who is prosecuting the case, is pursuing the death penalty, arguing that Mr. Tsarnaev acted in a heinous, cruel and depraved manner, betrayed the United States after becoming a citizen, and has shown no remorse. The government is expected to argue that if the death penalty were ever justified, it is justified in this case. The debate here is particularly intense because Massachusetts abolished the death penalty in 1984, but this is a federal case and so federal law applies.
On April 8, the jury found Mr. Tsarnaev, 21, guilty on all 30 charges against him in connection with the 2013 bombings, which killed three people and wounded 264 others. The same jurors are now settling in for the sentencing phase, which will unfold like a regular trial.
Judge George A. O'Toole Jr. of Federal District Court, who is presiding, has said it could take about 4 weeks.
In federal cases, the odds favor life sentences. Since the federal death penalty was reinstated in 1988, federal juries have considered it in 230 cases and opted 2/3 of the time for life sentences instead, according to the Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel Project. In that time, only 3 people in federal cases have been executed. A vote for the death penalty must be unanimous. (Source: New York Times, 21/04/2015)