The Justice Department announced today that they plan to seek the death penalty if a jury finds Dzhokhar Tsarnaev guilty of the Boston Marathon bombing. The Boston Marathon bombing occurred last April and took the lives of three people and injured more than 200 others. The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts has condemned the decision as Massachusetts has been without the death penalty for approximately 20 years.
“After consideration of the relevant facts, the applicable regulations and the submissions made by the defendant’s counsel, I have determined that the United States will seek the death penalty in this matter,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement. “The nature of the conduct at issue and the resultant harm compel this decision.”
Tsarnaev, 20, along with his 26-year-old brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev are believed to be the men behind the pressure cooker bombs placed near the finish line at the Boston Marathon. The blasts left more than a dozen people amputated and three people, including an 8-year-old boy, dead. After authorities were able to identify the suspects in the bombing, the brothers allegedly killed an MIT police officer and Tamerlan was eventually killed in a shootout with police. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was injured in the shootout and was later found hiding in a boat.
Holder’s announced that the death penalty will be sought if a jury convicts Tsarnaev didn’t sit well with the Massachusetts ACLU. Massachusetts, one of 18 states that does not have the death penalty, did away with capital punishment in 1984. ACLU of Massachusetts executive director Carol Rose released a statement on the death penalty for the Boston Marathon bomber today:
The ACLU is disappointed that Attorney General Holder has authorized prosecutors to seek the death penalty against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The ACLU opposes the death penalty in all cases, because it is discriminatory and arbitrary, and because it inherently violates the Constitutional ban against cruel and unusual punishment.
In this case, it is important to keep in mind that the people of Massachusetts, through their elected representatives, have repeatedly rejected the death penalty. Even shortly after the horrible Boston Marathon bombing, a Boston Globe poll found that the people of Boston said two-to-one that they would prefer a sentence of life without parole for Tsarnaev, if he is convicted.
After the Marathon attack, this community rallied around the slogan “Boston Strong.” Even—and especially—in case like this, that means not letting terrorists or anyone else shake us from our values.
A victim of the bombing says that she has mixed feelings on the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. “It’s not going to change what happened,” Lee Ann Yanni said. “I really don’t think there is a right or wrong in this situation. It’s not going to bring anybody back.”
A date for Tsarnaev’s trial hasn’t been set, but his lawyers don’t expect it to begin in 2014.
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