Boston Bomber Trial Enters The Sentencing Phase

by Lauren Barbato

As Boston recovers from its annual marathon, the trial of convicted marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev reconvenes on Tuesday less than two miles from the iconic finish line at Copley Square, where on Monday, runners celebrated their achievement as well as two years of healing. Tsarnaev was recently found guilty of placing a pressure-cooker bomb in the middle of a crowd of spectators at the 2013 Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring nearly 270 others. He was also charged and convicted for the shooting death of MIT police officer Sean Collier. All in all, Tsarnaev was found guilty of the 30 charges he faced; 17 of those charges carry the death penalty.

Going into the sentencing phase of the trial, the death penalty remains on the table. Federal prosecutors are expected to push for the death penalty for the 21-year-old Chechen immigrant-turned-American citizen, while the defense team, led by high-profile defender Judy Clarke, will try to save Tsarnaev's life. In order to sentence the him to death, the 12-person jury needs to be unanimous in its decision — just one "no" could prevent the 21-year-old from lethal injection.

But for many residents of Massachusetts, which doesn't have capital punishment, the decision to sentence the younger Tsarnaev brother to death or banish him to life imprisonment hasn't been an easy one. Even survivors and family members of the victims of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings have leaned toward sparing the 21-year-old's life.

Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes, a married couple who both lost legs in the 2013 attack, recently sent a statement to The Boston Globe, saying: "If there is anyone who deserves the ultimate punishment, it is the defendant. However, we must overcome the impulse for vengeance."

And the family of 8-year-old Martin Richard, who was killed in the bombings, wrote in a recent front-page editorial for the Globe:

We understand all too well the heinousness and brutality of the crimes committed. ... The defendant murdered our eight-year-old son, maimed our seven-year-old daughter and stole part of our soul. 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.
Andrew Burton/Getty Images News/Getty Images

These victims and family members have asked the Department of Justice to not go after the death penalty, but Tuesday's trial moves ahead with America's harshest punishment on the table, and federal prosecutors aren't budging. This sentencing phase of the trial is expected to play out like a regular trial, and the defense will likely bring more witnesses and experts to the stand. During the guilt phase of the trial, the defense just brought four people to the stand to testify, and wrapped up their case in less than two days.

According to The New York Times, the presiding Judge George A. O’Toole Jr. of Federal District Court has said the sentencing phase could take about four weeks. How long will the jury take to deliberate sparing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's life? Only time will tell.

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