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Why The Boston Bar Association Wants The Death Penalty Removed From Tsarnaev Trial04:37
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In this courtroom sketch, Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, third from right, is depicted with his lawyers and U.S. District Judge George O'Toole Jr., right. (Jane Flavell Collins/AP)
In this courtroom sketch, Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, third from right, is depicted with his lawyers and U.S. District Judge George O'Toole Jr., right. (Jane Flavell Collins/AP)
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With a jury expected to be in place in the federal trial of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, there is a new call to take the death penalty off the table and allow a plea deal instead.

The call comes from the Boston Bar Association, which BBA President Julia Huston says has opposed the death penalty for more than 40 years. She joins Morning Edition to explain the group's position.

Hear the full interview in the audio player above.

For more, listen to David Boeri's report on the Boston Bar's request to remove the death penalty from the Boston bombing trial.


INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS

Why The BBA Is Pushing For This Now

Julia Huston: "The Boston Bar Association has opposed the death penalty for more than 40 years. In the latter part of 2013, we specifically studied the application of the death penalty in non-death penalty states, such as Massachusetts, in federal trials. And we recommended that the death penalty not be applied in such states due to systemic problems with the death penalty that make it impossible to administer fairly.

'Three Fundamental Problems With The Death Penalty'

1) 'Innocent people will die'

JH: "First, the inevitability of error in criminal cases makes it overwhelmingly likely that applying the death penalty will lead to the execution of innocent defendants. We know that this has happened — it happens a lot. So, innocent people will die."

2) Applied to miniorities unfairly

JH: "In practice, the death penalty has a disproportionate impact on members of racial and ethnic minorities."

3) Death penalty is expensive

JH: "Pursuit of the death penalty is incredibly expensive. It is often eight times the cost of seeking a punishment of life without parole, and we think that that is not a sensible allocation of resources in a criminal justice system already laboring under huge financial strain."

On Why Emotion Should Not Drive Decision To Apply Death Penalty

JH: "Certainly, our hearts go out to the victims of this horrible crime. It is difficult to imagine a more horrible crime than the kind of mass terror alleged in this case. There is a lot of emotion around this issue. But we don't believe that emotions should drive the decision of whether to apply the death penalty if in fact Tsarnaev is determined to be guilty.

Because of these systemic problems, we as a society need to look at the death penalty in a different way — not just in an emotional way in a single case, but as a system. And this is a system that does not work."

Boston Bar Says Plea Bargain Would Bring 'Speedy Closure' To Tsarnaev Case

"We believe that the better course for the residents of Boston and the people who were affected by this tragedy is to allow this defendant to plead guilty — should he wish to do so — in exchange for life in prison without parole. That will bring speedy closure to this case rather than years of uncertainty and appeals."

This segment aired on February 25, 2015.

Bob Oakes Twitter Host, Morning Edition
Bob Oakes has been WBUR's Morning Edition anchor since 1992.

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