A Federal jury sentenced Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death today. The decision for death was reached despite a strong pushback against the use of capital punishment in the case from Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley and the Massachusetts Catholic Conference of Bishops and the appeal of a leading Catholic voice against the death penalty, Sister Helen Prejean. Survivors and family members of the victims had also asked for life without parole for Tsarnaev, who was 19 at the time he committed the terrorist attack which claimed three lives and injured and disfigured scores more. They argued that putting their families through what will likely become a long appeals process will only force them to relive the tragedy.
A spokesperson for Cardinal O’Malley said he did not expect a statement from the cardinal or the Massachusetts bishops today. They had issued a strong statement against the use of capital punishment in April.
The decision was reached in 14 hours of deliberations over three days. Tsarnaev was convicted last month of all 30 federal charges against him, including use of a weapon of mass destruction and the killing of an MIT police officer during the Tsarnaev brothers’ getaway attempt. Seventeen of those charges carried the possibility of the death penalty.
The defense had never argued that Tsarnaev was innocent of the crimes he had been charged with, putting his life in the hands of a defense at sentencing that suggested Tsarnaev had been an impressionable teen enthralled by an older brother who compelled him to become involved in the attack. That brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev died days after the bombing, shot by police and run over by his younger brother during a chaotic and violent getaway attempt.
The only evidence of remorse on his part in the two years since the attack was offered by the defense’s final witness, Sister Helen Prejean, a death penalty opponent made famous by the book and film “Dead Man Walking.”
She quoted Tsarnaev as saying of the bombing victims: “No one deserves to suffer like they did.”