The families of those who were killed in the Boston Marathon bombing and its aftermath are leaning towards one conclusion. Of the four people who died, the families of two victims have spoken out against the death penalty for convicted murderer Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who faces execution in the penalty phase of his trial. The families of Martin Richard, 8, and Sean Collier, 26, said they do not want Tsarnaev to be executed.
Tsarnaev was found guilty of 30 charges on April 8, 17 of which carry a potential death sentence. Though he committed his crimes in Massachusetts, which outlaws the death penalty as a matter of state law, he is subject to federal jurisdiction and can still be executed. The state law reflects the opinions of a majority of Massachusetts residents, and even after the devastating bombing, most Bostonians say they oppose the death penalty for Tsarnaev. Sixty-two percent of voters said they would sentence Tsarnaev to life in prison, and only 27 percent said he should be given capital punishment.
According to The New York Times, the state of Massachusetts has not carried out an execution since 1947. State residents' opinions are in stark opposition to national polls, which show 60 percent of Americans in favor of death for Tsarnaev and 30 percent against it.
Martin Richard, 8, was the youngest victim of the Boston Marathon bombings in April 2013. Though prosecutors described graphic details of Richard's violent and painful death at Tsarnaev's trial, Richard's parents say they do not want their son's killer to be executed. Bill and Denise Richard wrote an opinion piece published in The Boston Globe on Thursday entitled "To end the anguish, drop the death penalty." They wrote:
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.
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 Richards family are not alone in their position. Jennifer Lemmerman, sister of the murdered MIT police officer Sean Collier, wrote on Facebook this week that she did not support the pursuit of the death penalty against Tsarnaev.
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.
While these two families have made their positions clear, other victims who escaped with their lives but were seriously injured say they support the death penalty. Marc Fucarile, who lost his right leg in the attack and has shrapnel embedded in his body, said he thinks executing Tsarnaev is appropriate to deter other terrorists. He told The Boston Globe:
For any terrorist who watches this around the world, they should know that we’ll put them to death. It’s a powerful statement to let people know that if you do a horrible act like this, this is what will happen to you.
Fucarile has been vocal about his opinions and has been featured on multiple news stations.
Rebekah Gregory, who lost a leg in the bombings and testified at Tsarnaev's trial, said last week she was unsure what his punishment should be. She told ESPN:
I think the death penalty is ultimately what he wants. So I don’t know — life in prison alone with your thoughts — I think that might be ...
I don’t know. I’m glad I’m not the jury.
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