Will Tsarnaev Now Be Put To Death?

Well, almost two years after the bombing of the Boston marathon, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has finally been tried and convicted. In a Boston courtroom Wednesday, the jury in the Tsarnaev trial returned a guilty verdict on all 30 counts. It was an outcome his defense had to expect, as the team had freely admitted their client had committed the crimes in the hopes of protecting him from a potential death sentence. Now, all that remains is to see whether that strategy worked — will Dzhokhar Tsarnaev get the death penalty?

It's been a looming possibility throughout the trial, and with the more or less assured guilty verdicts being announced Wednesday, it's now an imminent question. As detailed by The Boston Globe, 17 of the counts Tsarnaev's been convicted of carry a potential death sentence. The sentencing phase of the trial will reportedly begin next week, and those same 12 jurors will be faced with the ultimate choice — should Tsarnaev be executed for his attack on the Boston Marathon, or simply kept in prison for the rest of his life? Well, this much is clear: we won't know the answer for at least a little while longer.

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According to the Globe, the sentencing phase of the trial could take weeks, as Tsarnaev's defense team will begin the process that's basically been the only achievable goal for them from the start — convincing the jury that Dzhokhar was radicalized by his older brother Tamerlan, and was cajoled into carrying out the attack. If history is any indication, the prosecution will argue that Dzhokhar's radicalization existed independent of his brother's sway, spurred along by Islamist content he delved into on the internet.

Which interpretation wins out is basically the crux on which he lives or dies. Obviously, it's impossible to forecast with crystal clarity, and will ultimately prove to be a case of wait-and-see. But the possibility feels pretty considerable. If any jury would have the willingness to condemn Tsarnaev to death, of course, you'd think it might be a Boston-area jury. That's part of the reason his defense tried to strenuously to get the trial moved to a different venue, launching multiple appeals that were all shot down.

Even setting aside the issue of whether or not the prosecution's depiction carries sway, as well, the reality is that it'll only take one holdout to prevent Tsarnaev from facing execution. That's because it takes a unanimous decision by all 12 jurors to issue a death sentence, an appropriately stiff legal standard. It shouldn't be easy to decide to put somebody to death, nor should the process be neat or tidy, because once it's done, it's done. Whether or not you think Tsarnaev deserves to die, the process is necessarily a challenge, because the horror of wrongly executing an innocent person constantly looms.

In short, make sure to keep an eye on the sentencing phase starting next week. Whatever ends up being decided, hopefully Wednesday's measure of justice helps ease some of the trauma the bombing inflicted.

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