Death Penalty for Boston Bomber


Maya Lapp, Senior Reporter

When the topic of twenty-one year old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s sentence arose in school the other day, one student’s reply was, “Our country still has the death penalty?” Yes, we do.

Two years after the bombing at the Boston Marathon, a jury has condemned Tsarnaev to death for his part in planting the bomb that killed three, maiming seventeen, and seriously injured over 240. This was, according to New York Times reporter Katharine Seelye, “the worst terrorist attack on American soil since Sept. 11, 2001”. The defense did not dispute the fact that Tsarnaev planted the bomb, and the jurors were clearly not swayed by the argument that he was acting under the influence of his older brother. Only two believed that he showed any remorse for his actions.

Tsarnaev planted the bomb in retaliation for the deaths of innocent Muslims in Amercan-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some, including Sister Helen Prejean, a Roman Catholic nun renowned for her denouncement of the death penalty, say Tsarnaev expressed sorrow for his actions, while others claim that while he may not relish killing innocents, his justification in this case left no room for remorse.

Massachusetts does not have the death penalty for state crimes, so where did this verdict come from? The jurors had to be “death-qualified”. This means that they have no reservations about the death penalty, but similarly, they do not believe that all cases of capital murder call for the death penalty, or, in other words, they believe that life imprisonment is a reasonable sentence as well. Does this keep the jury open-minded about the sentence, or does it create a misrepresentation of the residents that called overwhelmingly for condemning him to life imprisonment – not death? Even the parents of Martin and Jane Richard (an eight-year-old boy who lost his life and a seven-year-old girl who lost her leg) asked for a life sentence, knowing that the appeal process would be much shorter, allowing them to move on in their life. Some feared his death would create a martyr.

If a single juror had refused to vote for a death sentence, Tsarnaev would be living the rest of his life in a high security prison. At the end of their deliberation, all were weary, some even close to tears. Although the following appeals could take decades to complete, some victims have already expressed a contentment and feeling of conclusion to the ordeal. It must be noted that of the 80 death sentences in the past few decades, only three have been executed so far. Most are still on appeal.

A year ago Tsarnaev was considered too immature to drink alcohol, and yet only three of the jurors considered the fact that he may have been under the maleficent influence of his older brother, and now he is condemned to death for his actions. What he did was a terrible thing, but sentencing a twenty-one year old to death after only fourteen hours of deliberation seems like a quick decision for a very complex situation.