Attorney General Eric Holder has announced today that the Justice department will seek the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, if he is convicted of the terrorist bombing in Boston last April. Holder cited several key reasons why the Boston bomber will face the death penalty. These reasons include the grave risk to public safety caused by the attack, as well as the highly cruel manner in which the attack was carried out. Holder also cited the lack of any remorse from Tsarnaev as a prime reason to ask for the severest of punishments.
Before reaching this decision, the Justice Department spent time with the victim’s families. Their input had a significant effect on the department’s course of action. Though it was widely assumed that the death penalty would be sought, the decision does not come without some controversy. Since the 1970’s reform of the death penalty in the United States, only three executions have been carried out. The most recent, Timothy McVeigh, occurred in 2001 and was also a terrorist bombing case. If convicted, Tsarnaev will be left in the hands of a state that has been a proponent against the death penalty for a number of years. Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick assured the public that his state would see justice done. “One way or the other, based on the evidence, Tsarnaev will die in prison,” Patrick said.
The case against Tsarnaev appears to be airtight. However, the prosecution faces several difficulties in assuring a conviction results in the death sentence. The first is the venue of the trial itself. No matter where the trial is held, the Boston bomber faces the death penalty. However, prosecutors can file for a change of venue if they feel Boston is not the place to receive the conviction they desire.
At this time Bostonians will make up the jury that must not only decide if Tsarnaev is guilty but if he deserves to die. These jurors will no doubt have been closely affected by the bombings and may call for the death penalty. Even though Massachusetts abolished the death penalty in the 1980’s, federal law allows for certain circumstances when the death penalty can still be asked for. However, a recent poll in Boston shows only thirty three percent of citizens would seek the death penalty. This matches the liberal identity that Boston is known for.
If the venue is changed, the Boston Bomber will face the death penalty from another sampling of the American population. This sampling may not be as close to the tragedy. They may, however, be more sympathetic to sentencing Tsarnaev to death.
Once the venue is decided, prosecutors must then build a case against the younger Tsarnaev brother. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges, and maintains his pawn-like role in the tragedy. Older brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev was shot and killed when his little brother escaped in April. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was found shortly after hiding in a boat and taken into custody. Investigators found writings that covered the inside of the boat. Tsarnaev had scribbled his motivation for the bombings, in preparation for his own death. He accused the US government of killing innocent Muslims. The bombing was meant to be justice for all his people; an eye for an eye. If in fact the Boston Bomber does receive the death penalty he is facing, the justice he was looking for will surely find him.
By Chris Chisam