Will the Boston Bomber Be Executed?

Pleading guilty may be Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s best hope of escaping death

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Lethal injection death chamber in Huntsville, Texas.

Even as doctors nurse the accused Boston bomber back to health, federal prosecutors in Washington are considering whether Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should be put to death. If convicted and given the death penalty, Tsarnaev would be strapped to a table and injected with a lethal cocktail of chemicals, possibly at the same Indiana federal prison where the Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh, was executed twelve years ago.

But that outcome will only be possible if Attorney General Eric Holder asks for capital punishment for Tsarnaev’s role in the April 15 Boston marathon bombings, a sentence made possible by the charge that Tsarnaev used a weapon of a mass destruction in the attack.

That seems likely. Prominent Democratic senators are calling for the death penalty against Tsarnaev, and his legal team seems to expect it. In the case of the accused 9/11 plotters, Holder has called execution a means of achieving “justice.”

(MORE: Tsarnaev Snafus: Nearly 12 Years After 9/11, Boston Bombings Highlight Intelligence Holes)

Still, Holder will make his decision at a moment of declining popular support for the death penalty, and amid a years-long halt in federal executions. Since 1963, only three federal convicts have been put to death—all of them between 2001 and 2003. Another 59 federal convicts are now on death row, according to Robert Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. Most of their cases are tangled up in the years-long appeals process and none have execution dates scheduled.

That’s a contrast to the pace of the mid-20th century, when dozen of convicts were hanged, gassed and electrocuted. Some were extreme cases of national security, like the six German would-be saboteurs captured on U.S. soil in 1942, and the Cold War spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, dispatched by electric chair in 1953. Others were an assortment of kidnappers, rapists, killers and bank robbers.

(PHOTOS: Images: Joy and Relief in Boston After Bombing Suspect’s Arrest)

In the late 1960s, most executions in the U.S. stopped after legal challenges to state death penalty laws. But even the Supreme Court declared the punishment acceptable in 1976 and most states resumed the practice, the federal government did not.

A turning point came in 1988, when Ronald Reagan signed a law imposing capital punishment for drug-related killings—a response to a national drug epidemic. Michael Dukakis opposed the death penalty in his presidential campaign that year, an unpopular stance that Bill Clinton was accused of compensating for when, as a governor running for president in 1992, he denied clemency for a condemned Arkansas man with severe mental impairment.

(MORE: Hope Amid Dispair: Sermons After the Boston Bombings)

As president, Clinton pushed for and signed a 1994 crime bill that extended capital punishment to more than 60 new offenses, including terrorism and weapons of mass destruction use—charges that enabled the death penalty for McVeigh, who carried out his attack in 1995 and was put to death in June 2001.

As it happens, Holder has described himself as death penalty opponent, although he has also said he would enforce capital punishment laws, and as attorney general he has done so. When he sought to try the September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad in a New York federal court a few years ago, for instance, Holder defended the plan, in part, by arguing that KSM was likelier to get a death sentence in a civilian court rather than from a military commission.

Still, the federal government has not scheduled an execution under Obama, who says he supports capital punishment in rare cases. Since at least 2010 the Justice Department has been reviewing its execution protocols, thanks to a nationwide shortage of the lethal injection drug sodium thiopental. The death penalty has also grown politically controversial, as the advent of reliable DNA evidence testing has exposed wrongful convictions in capital cases. Polling still shows nearly two-thirds of Americans support executions in murder cases, but that number is down from a 1992 peak of 80 percent. (A majority of Americans have not opposed capital punishment since the mid 1960s, according to Gallup.)

(MORE: Political Debate Over Boston Bombings Races Ahead Of Investigation)

While putting a convicted terrorist to death might seem highly uncontroversial, there is one practical argument against it: that foreign anti-death penalty governments might refuse to extradite terror suspects to America. Secretary of State John Kerry held this position as a U.S. Senator until he ran for president in 2004. Indeed, during the trial of the “20th hijacker” Zacarias Moussaoui, Germany and France  supplied prosecutors with evidence only on the condition that it not be used to support his execution. (Moussaoui was sentenced to life in prison.)

Defense lawyers tell the Boston Globe that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s legal team might try to spare his life by emphasizing his age (nineteen) and the apparent leadership of his deceased older brother. They may also urge him to plead guilty: several notorious killers, including the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, the Atlanta Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph, and the Tucson shooter, Jared Loughner, all pleaded guilty to their crimes and avoided likely death sentences as a result. In a 2011 Justice Department memo Holder wrote that “a defendant’s willingness to plead guilty will now expressly be recognized as a factor” in deciding whether to pursue capital punishment.

In which case Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s best hope of escaping death by syringe may come down to three simple words: “Guilty as charged.”

MORE: Why the FBI, White House Will Face Hard Questions About Their Boston Bombing Interviews

125 comments
Asshole
Asshole

Wow! He got the Death Penalty? I am totally surprised.  Usually, the only humans who get the Death Penalty from liberals are unborn babies! Maybe this signals a change?

Apolitical_Misanthrope
Apolitical_Misanthrope

Kill the Churka-Ruskie and the country will be safe, but not for long. It's just the officials kept believing this crap political correctness to let them in. I still want the boy dead... it's going to be a bloody fun time with the firing squad for this feeb.

tyleemarkham
tyleemarkham

Obama is personally responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands -- he's the one who deserves the death penalty.

PuritaFleschhut
PuritaFleschhut

Either the gallows or a bullet at the back would be fitting enough for this murderer.

WKSloane
WKSloane

He will be found guilty on the charge of mayhem ( a life sentence), but not on the charge of using a WMD ( designed to avoid the death penalty, i.e. martyrdom).

WKSloane
WKSloane

Acts of treason comprising 4-counts of first degree murder, 190 counts of attempted murder resulting in mayhem against civilians and law enforcement personnel, kidnapping, armed robbery, resisting arrest ... should have been the Federal charges. This guy gets a  life sentence for mayhem -- the charge for using WMD doesn't hold (planned to execution, i.e., martyrdom).     

minaeisenhofer
minaeisenhofer

they deserve it. its time america put their foot down we shouldn't stand for such acts and sitting and having their good little time in prison is NOT good enough. as an american i will not rest until i see that justice is done.

ShelterSomerset
ShelterSomerset

The Left Wing must shake itself from the notion that anyone who disagrees with their socialist agenda is a racist. 

RaymondHietapakka
RaymondHietapakka

Are you more sentimental about housing and feeding some worthless bum for the next sixty years, or do you care about the rest of society that will go without medicine, etc. because we blew the money supporting this worthless sack of szchiddt?

Sticky_Wicky
Sticky_Wicky

What would be a fair & civil punishment for those guilty of terrible crimes? Will capital punishment help build a foundation for a civil society? ow.ly/klfxP

MrBenGhazi
MrBenGhazi

Will he? Who knows. Should he? If proven guilty, yes, I believe so.

anti-government
anti-government

The more pertinent question today is will GW Bush be tried as a war criminal. I'm opposed to the death penalty but if anyone ever deserved it...

IMHO-?
IMHO-?

I wonder why the first legal step would not be to strip him of his citizenship?  We did this for people who lied about being Nazis because they lied.  Seems likely he lied about upholding the Constitution of the United States.

Americangirl
Americangirl

it's sad that he became an American Citizen on 9/11/2012

SamFaksvaag
SamFaksvaag

Responding to PauleJP:

        -- No, I'm not Muslim. Not all things in the world boil down to us vs. them. You might possibly disagree with me, but I am coming at this discussion from what I believe is a factual perspective. My point about violence by terrorists (such as the Boston bombing) and violence by the US military, is that at end of the day both terrible and both should be condemned. In number of deaths, a case could be argued that the US has committed more needless deaths than the terrorists. Though these deaths do not justify terrorism, in a certain way they legitimize the anger that sparked the wrongly actions. Here's an estimate of the Iraqi War deaths (about 1.5 million) that have occurred since the beginning of what I would argue to be a needless war of aggression --compare that number of 9/11 deaths: http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/iraq. Yes, the US military does not typically directly target civilians, but it has recently put great numbers of civilians in harms way through wars of aggression and use of such unethical weapons and tactics as the use of Depleted Uranium weapons, all in ways that could be considered criminal negligence resulting in non-combatant death.  This is the opinion of the  Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal Foundation against the US government leaders of the Second Iraq War, which they consider a criminal war from the start as war of aggression: ttp://criminalisewar.org/tribunal/Judgement%20KLWCT%20May%202012.pdf.   (Here's an explanation of the document: http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=8348

Similarly, a committee of lawyers in Japan, has also condemned actions of the US military in the Afghan War as war crimes: http://globalresearch.ca/articles/TOK403A.html

       --This is not the first time such a committee has accused the US of war crimes: here is the indictment, led by the former US attorney general, Ramsey Clark,  of the First Gulf War: http://deoxy.org/wc/wc-index.htm. This indictment includes incidents of US military targeting civilians directly, such as documentation of the US Air Force, randomly shooting vehicles on the highways in Iraq -- not combatants, just clusters of random drivers. This indictement makes the claim that the US gov “intentionally deprived the Iraqi people of essential medicines, potable water, food, and other necessities.” Also, in regards to the targeting of civilians consider that the UNICEF reported that the sanctions on Iraq and the destruction of the infrastructure, hospitals, water sources, etc. lead to the deaths of half a million children. In response to being questioned about these deaths, Madeline Albright, (the former US Secretary of State) is quoted as saying that “this is a very hard choice, but we think the price is worth it.”

So is the US government, past and current, completely innocent of crimes against humanity, while terrorists such as the Boston bombers are completely guilty? I would argue that both are guilty. Terrorism, criminal negligence, wars of aggression, and the direct targeting of civilian are all war crimes. It seems many people in the world would agree with me: In 2011 & 2012, angry protestors wanting to hold Bush and Cheney accountable for their crimes actually scared them away from events in Canada and Switzerland: http://www.activistpost.com/2012/03/war-criminals-bush-and-cheney-can-no.html.   On Feb 13, millions of people around the world protested against the Iraq War –possible as many as 10 million according to the BBC (who represent a low estimate): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/February_15,_2003_anti-war_protest.

    Here's a general explanation, promoted by Ramsey Clark, as to why much of the world hates the US foreign policy: http://www.addictedtowar.com/atw1a.html

ShawnArscott
ShawnArscott

I did not know that there had been a trial where  Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was found guilty. To have to plead guilty to avoid the death penalty - is this not coercion. 

BrianH
BrianH

"(CNN) -- The surviving suspect in the Boston bombings has told investigators he and his brother planned to bomb Times Square, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Thursday.

"Last night we were informed by the FBI that the surviving attacker revealed that New York City was next on their list of targets," Bloomberg said.

The two came up with the plan spontaneously after the Boston bombing, as they talked in an SUV they hijacked, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev initially told investigators that he and his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, had talked about going to New York to "party." Then in a second round of questioning Sunday evening into Monday morning -- during which Kelly said the suspect was "a lot more lucid" than the first time he was interviewed -- he revealed they planned to use their remaining explosives there, Kelly announced.

The plan "fell apart" when the SUV ran low on fuel in the Boston area and the Tsarnaevs ordered the driver to pull into a gas station, Kelly said. The driver escaped during the refueling, he said, and police subsequently caught up with the Tsarnaevs.

The brothers had five pipe bombs and a "pressure-cooker bomb" -- the latter similar to the bombs used in the Boston blasts -- with them in the SUV"

I guess we should give him a bigger cuddle now if this is true.

kellyjo5150
kellyjo5150

The real question is : Will he get Conjugal visitation ?   Thousands of female nutcases will be  feeling soooooooooo sorry for this piece of trash...anyone want to be he will get married at least once...probably the maximum allowable four times.  All will then join him on Mass. welfare.

curt3rd
curt3rd

Set a bomb off near him and let him bleed out.

swagger
swagger

life without parole, super max prison, solitary confinement.  free 100 nonviolent low risk drug criminals out to rehab so that the savings that release creates will pay for the muslim lifer.

hockthai
hockthai

Need to consider the consequences to people's lives are wasted because of him.  What good is it to him?  He wants his 72 virgins, give it to him. No honorable state funeral for this chap, that's for sure. http://www.funeralservicesmy.blogspot.com

paulejb
paulejb

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev deserves life in the electric chair. This sub-human is a waste of air and space. He had nineteen years to learn the value of life and failed to do so.

markb3699
markb3699

How is it civilized or spiritual to put someone to death? Would our society heal by delivering so-called justice in the form of a chemical killing? There is no good argument for the death penalty except "an eye for an eye," which the way I remember it is an ancient expression. Tell you something?

BobDevaughn
BobDevaughn

Will they, or SHOULD they?


Vengeance is not justice. Killing this boy will not bring back or un-maim those injured in this unconscionable act.


What killing this boy would do, would be to surrender the moral high-ground to the very people who attack us because they know our way of life is based on the moral high ground- a free, equal, and prosperous nation, built on the tenants of reason, not the tenants of faith or dogma.


It would reduce us to equals with a group of individuals who, by the sheer isolation of their radical position, have no just recourse to achieve the change their faith demands.


Not killing this boy would send the clear message to anyone, anywhere who questions the morality of our culture. 


Anyone considering it could only say that regardless of the act our prisoner committed, the United States of America holds the sanctity of life above all else- first in our list of self-evident, unalienable rights (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness). They could only conclude that we believe in repentance, atonement, and reconciliation.


Nothing can bring back or un-main those injured by this unconscionable act, but this boy can become a vehicle to demonstrate our moral superiority, our commitment to higher ideals. In time, perhaps through learning the error of his ways, he can serve as a lesson to those who might follow in his footsteps.


Let me conclude by reiterating that he is a boy. Obviously not legally, but if you look at this kid and see a man, I would have to question your definition of the word (or worry how low the standard of a man has sunk). Its true that historically, children have been considered adults at much younger ages, but historically, the burden of adulthood was thrust upon children at much younger ages. Adulthood is measured by maturity and experience, not days on a calendar.


Treating this boy as he is, a horribly misguided youth, incapable of refuting the heinous ideology concieved by greater minds and propogated so convincingly by radical zealots, would be the start of winning the war on terror- allowing our ideology defeat the ideology of terrorism.


SamFaksvaag
SamFaksvaag

violence is not the answer -but we deserved what happened. We are the ones who committed so many crimes in the Middle East first.

sacredh
sacredh

If he's a match for any victim that needs an organ, I say make good use of him.

herr67
herr67

Put him in solitary confinement with no lights for the rest of his life and no tv, books etc.. Let him have just his thoughts.

BrianH
BrianH

It may be easy to get him to plead guilty in the hope of escaping the death penalty by making points such as his age and his older brother being the main driving force behind the attacks. He is 19 and seen as an adult and should be held accountable for his own actions, with regards to his age being a factor, he never gave any thought to any human factors that day be it babies, children, color, race as his main intention was to kill as many people as he could. 

I am not a huge fan of the death penalty but for terrorism cases I can see a valid reason.

SukeMadiq
SukeMadiq

CHop off his arms and legs, then cover him with itching powder and ants.

paulejb
paulejb

Even if Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were sentenced to death he would still be alive and getting three hots and a cot at taxpayer expense for decades.

YehudaElyada
YehudaElyada

As a rule, I’m against capital punishment in criminal justice, because it’s proven ineffective in improving public safety. But terrorism is not a “normal” criminal activity that is characteristically limited by the perpetrator’s focused interest in profiting from the injury to targeted victim, his effort at reducing the chance of committing an unprofitable crime and in general “personal” horizons normally unaffected by external manipulations. Only the “serial killer” diverge from this profile, and he is, clearly, mentally disturbed. The terrorist is a different beast. Nothing limits his thirst for blood – and it’s immaterial whose blood. The profit, from his point of view, is the act itself, so he is never satisfied. And the act serves to breed more terrorists. There’s always in the background cynical manipulators eager to recruit more terrorist using the “hero” as a role model. To make the important distinction between “Criminal” and “Terror” we should have a different punishment to the later. His act falls in a different space and his punishment is not limited by normal humane consideration. He should die, so humankind internalizes the unacceptability of terror act, no matter what’re the circumstances.

romerjt
romerjt

If it were possible, and assuming he gets life in prison, I would make him watch a 5 - 10 minute video including crime scene photos and the anguish and suffering of those killed and injured right before breakfast.  The video would be changed from time to time a include the challenges and pain the amputees endure in daily living. To escape the responsibility reminder of what a horrible person he is, I would provide with the means, a pill, to take his own life.  That is the only real redemption.

donkenzie
donkenzie

I think the families of the victims should be asked what they prefer. That being said, something in me feels uncomfortable about killing a 19 year old, even if he is a monster. 

Ander_Baron
Ander_Baron

Life in prison is a more fitting option. First, because unlike death penalty, it is a continued form of punishment, whereas death comes instantly. Like someone said before me, applying the death penalty would turn him into a martyr, into yet another motivational item which would further fuel and justify terrorist actions. 

Also, by not applying death sentence, the american government would demonstrate that it does not resort to brief explosions of materialized hate, compelled by rage's momentum. Violence or death as a retaliation is the behaviour of brutes, tyrants, and opressors, little above animalistic standards.

destor23
destor23

Like @PaulDirks I oppose the death penalty largely because I don't trust the judicial system not to make mistakes, even if they are rare and since the death penalty is the one sentence that can never be taken back and that the victim can never be compensated for, I just can't support it.  Since there's no doubt, though, that Tsarmaev is guilty, I can see how even lefties might hold this case as a "rare exception."  I still can't support it, though.  My lack of faith in the government's ability to fairly administer the death penalty in general, along with my belief that revenge is not a component of justice, prevents me from allowing any exceptions, even this one.

PaulDirks
PaulDirks

For whatever reason, I'm unable to sign in on my desktop browser. Please forgive the mangled and repeated posts. And High Sheriffs take note....!

Ohiolib
Ohiolib

I don't really care what happens to the scum, so long as he never walks free again.

PaulDirks
PaulDirks

Like many Americans, I oppose the death penalty, but the reason I oppose it is because it's way too easy to execute the wrong person and the possibility of vindication dies with the victim. It's NOT because mass murderers don't deserve to be killed. I will lose no sleep in this particular case.

Hermione
Hermione

Normally, I don't agree with death penalty, because either the convicted person is not truly guilty, or death would be a quick release from a life serving hard time.

However, even I can bend some on this matter.  Anyone that just kills innocent people, in such a heinous manner, deserves whatever the law, and our government, dishes out.  I have no sympathy for religious extremists, that goes for any religion.

bobell
bobell

I think your assessment is pretty much spot on, Michael. But I doubt that the administration is going to accept a plea in exchange for waiving the death penalty -- the Republicans in the Senate won't allow it.  I can see them now on Fox, shouting TSARNAEV!!! when they tire of shouting BENGHAZI!!!   Can the administration stand up to that?  I wouldn't bet on it.

If it were up to me, I'd turn him over to Massachusetts to prosecute first.  Keep the federal charges in reserve. Then, assuming Massachusetts sentences him to life without parole, just skip federal prosecution altogether.  Justice will already have been done, and passing on federal prosecution will save millions of dollars.

Meanwhile, will anyone even fine the people resonsible for the explosion in West, Texas?