Supreme Court agrees to hear case over death penalty for Boston Marathon bomber

Here is an early story on it.

He is guilty as heck. He and his brother killed three people.

Further, the Supreme Court is stacked to the max. It looks bad for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

That being said, I think I am still opposed to the death penalty. What do you think?

Justice Dept. wants to retry the penalty phase hoping that it won’t be overturned on a technicality this time. There isn’t much legal argument against doing that, the opposition is mainly the time, cost, and re-traumatizing victims who have to testify again. I don’t know why they would have to testify again, wasn’t their previous testimony recorded?

Anyway, there’s no question he did it. This is a case where this little weak minded lump of crap will continue to cost us time and money for a very long time no matter how this turns out. I’m also still opposed to the death penalty, but I’m not opposed to prisoner suicide.

I am an old soldier and have a pretty strong reaction to that sort of talk. More to the point, the rule of law must be observed. Nope, I cannot cotton to that at all.

I meant it literally. I believe prisoners should not be forced to maximize a life sentence.

I am also being quite serious. Prisoners do not get to make decisions.

He had no obligation to appeal the original death sentence. He’s not being “forced.”

I’ve read that it is less expensive to imprison for life rather than execute. Something involving the cost of appeals.

I meant that generally. If he wants to end his life some day I have no objection. Filing an appeal should not require him to live in prison as long as he possibly can.

Are we keeping prisoners in durance vile to torment them, or to prevent them from killing again?

A very good question that can have many answers. The short version is we are keeping him locked up because the law requires us to. After that comes the safety of the public, rehabilitation, retribution and deterrence is some sort of order.

I don’t see where it would fail the legal systems to allow a prisoner to terminate his or her miserable existence.

I think it would be a very bad idea to do so in an unofficial “turning a blind eye” sort of way, which could lead to all sorts of abuses.

But I think it could be argued that it would be okay to give a (mentally competent) convicted prisoner an official choice between, say, life imprisonment in solitary confinement without possibility of parole, and assisted suicide in a humane and painless form. I’m against the death penalty in general, but I’m not sure that subjecting somebody to a severe form of incarceration for their whole life is necessarily less cruel than executing them.

Yes, certainly. It does seem to happen that way now.

This is generally true. The moment a prosecutor declares they are seeking the death penalty for a defendant, the costs, starting with the trial court of original jurisdiction, can triple.

In addition to their regular counsel, defendants are assigned attorneys who are “death qualified,” meaning they specialize in death penalty cases. You’re going to have a penalty phase in the trial, which often takes as long as the guilt phase. The expert witnesses that come testify in death cases are often breathtakingly expensive.

All this is before you get to the costs for automatic appeals.

Saving money is not a basis to impose the death penalty.

I’m speaking as a former judge’s assistant who worked on many criminal trials, including death penalty cases. I was also a paralegal for a public defender’s office and prepared quite a number of requests for additional funding whenever we were called upon to defend in a death penalty case. The amounts totaled in the millions.

This was in California, so it may be different in other states.

In the instant case, getting a matter before the Supreme Court is never cheap.

Retribution plays a surprisingly large role, even if it’s often not explicit and hidden behind euphemisms like “corrections”. You can see it in the progression of prison conditions for those convicted of increasingly serious violent crimes, where very harsh conditions prevail for those considered “the worst of the worst” – not that I have a great deal of sympathy for them. Years ago it was represented by prisons like Alcatraz; today, it’s places like ADX Florence, the federal Supermax, which in some ways is even worse. That’s where Tsarnaev is now and where he will spend the rest of his life if not executed. Prisoners spend 23 hours a day in tiny concrete cells in which even the “furniture” is concrete. Some have attempted suicide, others have been driven insane. They can’t even starve themselves to death; those who try are force-fed liquid nourishment through the nose. A former warden there described their existence as “worse than death”. If Tsarnaev succeeds in avoiding the death penalty, he’ll live to regret it.

I can’t pretend to know enough about the technical peculiarities of the sentencing portion of this case that resulted in the death penalty being overturned initially, nor of the legal strength of the prosecution’s argument to appeal that. It wouldn’t surprise me if there was a defect in the penalty phase only if there was some judicial path to redoing that phase, since I know limitations on “do overs” are different for a full trial versus just the sentencing.

I am mostly opposed to the death penalty (on practical, not moral, grounds), and the status of this Tsarnaev doesn’t change that really.

Politically it does intersect somewhat with Biden’s stated desire to end the Federal death penalty. But I’m not sure if he’s clarified the specifics of that opinion. I can see on one hand him saying he supports legislation to end capital punishment in the Federal system, but that as long as it is on the books and independent prosecutors and juries sentence it, it’s his job to see the law executed (i.e. not his role to do a blank commutation of every death sentence.)

My bolding.

The “technicality” in question being that the Court of Appeals concluded that the trial judge had not taken adequate steps to ensure an unbiased jury. I guess having an unbiased jury is just a “technicality”?

I hate the term “legal technicality”. It has no meaning other than “a court ruling I disagree with”. It plays the same rhetorical role as “political correctness” - a tag to dismiss an outcome, without addressing the principles involved that led to that outcome.

You’re right, it’s a loaded word. I don’t disagree with the ruling at all, it was overturned because justice was not served.

Thank you.

I don’t think that’s true at all: it’s making a distinction between a trial result that’s derived from the evidence presented, versus a trail result that’s derived from a defect in the process of holding the trial itself. Tsarnaev wasn’t spared the death penalty because a jury of his peers looked at his crimes and decided they didn’t merit death, he was spared because the judge fucked up the process of sentencing him. That’s not a trivial difference.