The Sunday Boston Globe published the editorial, "Eric Holder shouldn't seek death for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev."
In the raw days after the Marathon bombing in April, Mayor Tom Menino spoke for many Bostonians when he raised the prospect of executing those who were responsible. Though normally a death penalty opponent, Menino said that the barbarity of the attackers, who killed four people and maimed dozens, might sway him.
Now, as surviving suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev faces trial, that question looms for federal prosecutors, who are in the midst of a lengthy process to decide by Oct. 31 whether to seek the 19-year-old’s death by lethal injection. It’s certainly understandable why many friends, family, and supporters of the victims hope prosecutors will seek the ultimate vengeance against the man they believe masterminded the bombing along with his older brother, Tamerlan. Still, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. should decide against it.
The death penalty is a deeply contentious issue, and individual viewpoints often spring from strongly held ethical and religious beliefs. To many, executions are never justified. Yet even ardent supporters of capital punishment should recognize that in this case, it would be a mistake for Holder to pursue the death penalty against Tsarnaev.
Go Local Worcester columnist Leonardo Angiulo writes, "Why We Don't Have The Death Penalty In Mass." Angiulo is a Boston area lawyer.
As the prosecution of Boston Marathon Suspect Dzokhar Tsarnaev moves forward, federal prosecutors weigh the decision to seek the death penalty. If this defendant is ultimately found guilty for the atrocities of last April then there are likely many who believe capital punishment would be just. Some might even say that an execution would be too humane an end for such an inhuman actor. The nature of the act, the hideous intent and results, as well as the malicious ideology resulting in the bombings incur the deepest wrath from all of us.
That the United States Attorney General has the power to seek the death penalty and State Prosecutors do not is a direct result of thoughtful rulings by the Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) of Massachusetts. Underlying the precedent are facts including historical observations, decades of effort by social justice groups and the cruel, crushing, finality of death sentences in a world otherwise devoid of clear endings.
If you really want to understand how the SJC came to their conclusion, it is essential that you do some research. A good place to start is the Massachusetts Trial Court Law Library online database, which organizes issues of law by topic. The page on the death penalty in Massachusetts provides links to several resources that are very thorough. In particular, the link to Alan Rogers' history of the death penalty from the Boston College website connects the present state of our law all the way back to activists in 1928 in a way that I wouldn't be able to here.