Will Boston Marathon Bombing Suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Get the Death Penalty?

By Jack Phillips, Epoch Times
January 4, 2015 1:57 pm Last Updated: January 4, 2015 9:20 pm

The jury selection for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will begin on Monday, and while he faces 30 federal counts, including using a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death, he probably won’t face the death penalty.

Dr. Carole Lieberman, a bestselling author who wrote “Coping With Terrorism: Dreams Interrupted,” told Epoch Times that “it is unlikely” Tsarnaev will be sentenced to death because his lawyers could “successfully portray him as basically a good guy who was simply under the influence of a domineering brother.”

Tsarnaev, 21, could face the death penalty for detonating bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon in April 15, 2013, which killed three people and injured scores more. He and his killed older brother, Tamerlan, also allegedly shot and killed Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer Sean Collier before trying to flee the Boston area.

“If they can persuasively demonstrate how the bombing was only his brother’s plan, and why Dzhokhar couldn’t free himself from being under his brother’s control, hen the jury will come to blamethe brother and feel sorry for Dzhokhar,” Lieberman added.

Tsarnaev is being defended by several high-profile lawyers, including Judy Clarke, who worked to defend “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski, mass killer Jared Lee Loughner, abortion clinic bomber Eric Rudolph, and others. David Bruck, Miriam Conrad, Timothy Watkins, and William Fick will also defend him.

Lieberman noted that his attorneys “will want to choose jurors who can identify with him, such as young males, and people who have emigrated to the U.S., as well as jurors who attorneys believe would be against the death penalty.”

It’s also worth noting that Massachusetts hasn’t executed any prisoners for more than 60 years. If a jury imposes the death penalty, the appeals process could go on for years–even decades.

Tsarnaev’s trial will have two phases with the same jury if there is no plea agreement. The first part will attempt to see if he’s guilty or innocent. The second phase will determine if he’s sentenced to life in prison or to death.

In January 2014, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that federal prosecutors would try to seek the death penalty in the case.

However, as the Christian Science Monitor points out, Bostonians tend to view the death penalty with disdain. A Boston Globe poll in 2013 found that only a third of the city’s residents support the punishment.

“Massachusetts as a commonwealth has a basic commitment to civic virtues, to decency. These are deep, deep, deep in our soil,” Rev. Nancy Taylor, who is a minister at Boston’s historic Old South Church–located near the Boston Marathon finish line–told the publication. “The death penalty kind of defiles the best of what it is to be virtuous in a civic sense. It kind of starts to wreck the equation.”