This year's Boston Marathon was a welcome, triumphant reprieve from the city's painful bombing trial that is set to enter its most complicated phase yet. On Tuesday, the same jury that found him guilty on all counts will decide on life or death for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev for his role in the deadly 2013 bombing as the penalty phase begins in U.S. District Court.
Unlike the first stage of the trail in which defense attorneys readily admitted Tsarnaev's participation in the bombing that killed three and wounded 264, finding him guilty was straightforward in comparison to what is set to come in the next four weeks. According to Reuters, the jury will face emotional testimony from both sides as Tsarnaev's attorneys fight to save him from the death sentence.
Prosecutors who will argue for the death sentence for Tsarnaev have their supporters, but the debate outside court as to whether the 21-year-old deserves the death penalty remains fierce. The parents of the bombing's youngest victim, 8-year-old Martin Richard who was killed by the second pressure cooker bomb near the marathon's finish line, issued a statement last week urging the federal authorities to reconsider the death penalty for Tsarnaev. Bill and Denise Richard argued for a life sentence without parole for the native Chechen instead, saying that it would "end the anguish" of a persisting trial and possibly "years of appeals."
Polls have shown that the majority of Boston-area residents oppose the death penalty for Tsarnaev, too. Although the state of Massachusetts abolished the death penalty more than 30 years ago, Tsarnaev is charged under the federal statute.
While prosecutors and the defense team have remain tight-lipped over the witnesses they will call to the stand, Reuters reported that the former will likely call on those close to the victims, while Tsarnaev's team will question those who will be able to discuss the relationship between Tsarnaev and his older brother and co-conspirator, Tamerlan, as well as his family. They will attempt to cast Tsarnaev as being controlled by Tamerlan, who died in a shootout with the police shortly after the bombing, the Associated Press reported.
The odds, however, are stacked against a death sentence. According to the Federal Death Penalty Resource Council, in the 200 such cases since the 1988 reinstatement of the federal death penalty, there have only been three executions, including Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. According to the Associated Press, if even one juror votes against the death penalty, Tsarnaev will get a life sentence.
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