Stillwater News Press

Opinion

February 28, 2014

DIANE DIMOND: Death sentence doubtful for the Boston Marathon bomber

STILLWATER, Okla. — If I were a betting woman, I’d plunk down $10 right now and bet that suspected Boston Marathon bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, will die in prison and not in an execution chamber.

Yes, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder recently announced the feds will seek the death penalty for Tsarnaev, but chances are the 19-year-old may never face the possibility of being put to death by the U.S. government.

Why do I say that? First, let’s review some facts.

Tsarnaev and his older brother Tamerlan, 26, are accused of planting powerful bombs at the Boston Marathon’s finish line, causing the deaths of three people and the wounding of more than 260 others. One of the dead was a police officer who was shot and killed during the ensuing manhunt for the brothers.  

The older Tsarnaev was shot four days later during a final street confrontation with police. His death was hastened according to the official indictment after his wounded little brother ran over him while fleeing the scene in a stolen car.

Young Dzhokhar was found the next day hiding in a covered boat in the residential neighborhood of Watertown, Mass., not far from the bombing site. Inside the boat he had scrawled a handwritten message saying in part, “The U.S. Government is killing our innocent civilians. I can’t stand to see such evil go unpunished ... We Muslims are one body, you hurt one, you hurt us all.” The message ends with the confessional line, “Stop killing our innocent people and we will stop.”

As the evidence against the surviving brother has mounted — and been widely reported — it doesn’t seem that any jury would ever find him not guilty. But history shows Dzhokhar Tsarnaev might never face a jury.

According to the Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel, in almost half of federal death penalty cases over the last 25 years, prosecutors ultimately withdrew the threat of death before trial. Instead, they agreed to plea agreements that resulted in life in prison with no possibility of early release.

Further, since the federal death sentence was re-instated in 1988, seventy defendants have been sentenced to the death chamber, but only three have actually been executed: Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh in June 2001, Juan Raul Garza eight days later and in March 2003, Louis Jones Jr. received a lethal injection.

But let’s say prosecutors stick to their guns on the Boston bombing case, refuse to offer Tsarnaev a plea bargain and he actually goes on trial. I’m still not convinced he will get the death penalty.

Tsarnaev’s lead defense lawyer is none other than Judy Clark, who has been called, “A master strategist in death penalty cases” and one who has an unmatched track record of humanizing high-profile murder clients and keeping them off death row.  

Visit Diane Dimond’s official website at www.dianedimond.com.

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