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Recent poll shows more people support sentencing Tsarnaev to LWOP than death in the Boston area

In a simple and eloquent letter published on the front page of the Boston Globe today, Bill and Denise Richard, parents of Martin Richard, the eight-year-old boy who was killed by the bomb that exploded in front of the Forum Restaurant near the finish line of the Boston Marathon two years ago, have asked federal prosecutors to forego seeking the death penalty against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, if he will accept responsibility for his acts, agree to serve life without possibility of parole and waive his right to appeal his conviction. They said in relevant part,

. . We know that the government has its reasons for seeking the death penalty, but the continued pursuit of that punishment could bring years of appeals and prolong reliving the most painful day of our lives. We hope our two remaining children do not have to grow up with the lingering, painful reminder of what the defendant took from them, which years of appeals would undoubtedly bring.

For us, the story of Marathon Monday 2013 should not be defined by the actions or beliefs of the defendant, but by the resiliency of the human spirit and the rallying cries of this great city. We can never replace what was taken from us, but we can continue to get up every morning and fight another day. As long as the defendant is in the spotlight, we have no choice but to live a story told on his terms, not ours. The minute the defendant fades from our newspapers and TV screens is the minute we begin the process of rebuilding our lives and our family.

Jennifer Lemmerman, sister of the MIT police officer Sean Collier who was shot to death by the Tsaenaev brothers three days after the bombings in an apparent attempt to steal his gun, also has asked the prosecution to forego the death penalty. According to the Boston Globe, she wrote on her Facebook account (posting no longer visible),

Whenever someone speaks out against the death penalty, they are challenged to imagine how they would feel if someone they love were killed. I’ve been given that horrible perspective and I can say that my position has only strengthened.

It has nothing to do with some pursuit of forgiveness. I can’t imagine I’ll ever forgive him for what he did to my brother, to my family, and I’ll have to live with that for the rest of my life, whether he is on this earth or not.

But I also can’t imagine that killing in response to killing would ever bring me peace or justice. Just my perspective, but enough is enough. I choose to remember Sean for the light that he brought. No more darkness.

As I have said many times, I am opposed to the death penalty in all cases, no matter how egregious. So too is my wife, who posts here as Crane-Station. She is against the death penalty even though her nephew and his girlfriend were shot to death many years ago and the crime remains unsolved.

According to a recent poll by WBUR,

Boston area residents see the death penalty as an increasingly unpopular punishment for convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a new WBUR poll suggests.

The survey of 509 registered voters in Greater Boston found 58 percent support life in prison for Tsarnaev. That number rises to 61 percent among voters in the city of Boston.

Meanwhile, as support sentencing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death continues to drop, Tracy L. Dayton, an Assistant U.S.Attorney in Bridgeport, CT filed a notice of appearance in the Tsarnaev case on April 1st. She convinced a federal court jury in Connecticut to impose the death penalty in the so-called baseball bat murders. The Connecticut Post reports,

The head of a Bridgeport crack distribution ring became the first federal defendant in Connecticut in at least 125 years to be ordered put to death — a result of a brutal 2005 triple murder in the Park City’s North End.

A 12-member federal court jury deliberated just a day before deciding  Azibo Aquart, 30, who formerly lived in Bridgeport and Stamford, should be put to death for ordering and participating in the Aug. 24, 2005, murders of Tina Johnson, a 40-year-old health care aide who dabbled in crack sales, and Basil Williams, a 54-year-old house painter battling alcoholism.

How this increasing tension will play out is anyone’s guess.

What do you think should happen?




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Frederick Leatherman

Frederick Leatherman

I am a former law professor and felony criminal defense lawyer who practiced in state and federal courts for 30 years specializing in death penalty cases, forensics, and drug cases.

I taught criminal law, criminal procedure, law and forensics, and trial advocacy for three years after retiring from my law practice.

I also co-founded Innocence Project Northwest (IPNW) at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle and recruited 40 lawyers who agreed to work pro bono, assisted by law students, representing 17 innocent men and women wrongfully convicted of sexually abusing their children in the notorious Wenatchee Sex Ring witch-hunt prosecutions during the mid 90s. All 17 were freed from imprisonment.