Boston Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Will Not Get The Death Penalty After All
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the younger of the two brothers who bombed the 2013 Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring 264, will serve out the rest of his life in prison instead of being put to death. At least for now. This decision was made on Friday, when a three-judge panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals determined that the jury in his trial had not been screened for bias and that the judge in his case did not do enough to ensure that the trial was fair amid all of the attention the bombing had gotten in the media.
The younger Tsarnaev's lawyers have long argued that he was manipulated by his older brother, who they say was the mastermind in the bombing. That, however, did not factor in to this particular decision, which was only based on whether or not he got a fair trial.
It is still possible that he may get the death penalty in the end, but in order to do that, the government would need to decide to conduct a second, less-biased trial.
An attorney for Tsarnaev said they are grateful for the court's "straightforward and fair decision: if the government wishes to put someone to death, it must make its case to a fairly selected jury that is provided all relevant information."
"It is now up to the government to determine whether to put the victims and Boston through a second trial, or to allow closure to this terrible tragedy by permitting a sentence of life without the possibility of release," David Patton said in an email.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's office in Boston said they were reviewing the opinion and had no immediate comment. Prosecutors could ask the full appeals court to hear the case or go straight to the U.S. Supreme Court.
There is not much doubt that Tsarnaev is guilty. Any doubt, really. As far as anyone knows, even he has never proclaimed his own innocence. His attorneys have not argued for his innocence, merely that he was less guilty than his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
At least one relative of the victims is not happy about the decision:
The mother of Krystle Campbell, the 29-year-old killed in the attack, expressed outrage at the court's decision.
"I just don't understand it," Patricia Campbell told The Boston Globe.
"It's just terrible that he's allowed to live his life. It's unfair. He didn't wake up one morning and decide to do what he did. He planned it out. He did a vicious, ugly thing."
He did. He did an absolutely horrifying thing. Her feelings in this matter are entirely valid and understandable. It is absolutely not fair that her daughter is dead from what this ass and his brother did. But at the risk of sounding like a bumper sticker, we just shouldn't kill people who kill people to show people that killing people is wrong.
And yes, even when the person is absolutely, without a doubt guilty, it is important and necessary that their trial be fair and that their jury be unbiased. Because that is not always going to be the case. Innocent people are found guilty and innocent people are put to death in this country — which ought to be as good an argument against something as permanent as putting people to death as any. But not everyone feels that way.
It will make no difference to anyone living on the outside if someone gets the death penalty or life in prison. How would it? If the point is to keep people safe, and that is something we can accomplish without killing someone, then maybe we don't need the death penalty at all.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse