As we await the start of the sentencing phase of the Boston Marathon Bomber trial, the local dailies are – not surprisingly – seeing justice in very different outcomes for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
The Boston Herald goes for the trifecta in today’s edition: editorial, op-ed column, editorial cartoon – all reaching the same conclusion.
From the Herald editorial (under the headline No mercy for Tsarnaev):
Thirty counts. Thirty guilty verdicts. But that is only the beginning. The toughest part is yet to come — the issue of life or death for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. May this jury show him as little mercy as he showed the victims whose lives he so callously took.
From the op-ed piece by Rachelle Cohen:
In a strange way the death penalty seems too good, too easy for Tsarnaev who also wrote that he envied his brother Tamerlan’s martyrdom. Death won’t dissipate the anger that lingers. It won’t bring back those taken from us. And it will surely take years to actually be carried out — such is the American way of justice. But it is the only just end for this unrepentant terrorist.
Jerry Holbert’s editorial cartoon:
Crosstown, the Boston Globe does the Herald one better: editorial, two op-ed pieces, editorial cartoon – all pleading the opposite case.
From the Globe editorial (under the headline Now, a harder task for jury: Spare Tsarnaev death penalty):
As the trial now moves into its sentencing phase — the jury must unanimously vote to execute Tsarnaev, or else he will receive a life sentence — the defense team may also raise legal mitigating factors. Tsarnaev was 19 at the time of the bombing; he was apparently a heavy drug user; he had no prior criminal record. By themselves, none of these would seem like a particularly good reason to spare him, but taken as a whole, and alongside evidence of his brother’s dominant role, they should plant seeds of doubt.
In sorting through such life-and-death considerations, jurors face an unenviable task — and mixed precedent. The Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh, was put to death. The Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, wasn’t. Tsarnaev obviously should spend the rest of his life in prison. His defense has already made a good case that he does not meet the exceptionally high standards for a federal execution.
From Nancy Gertner’s op-ed: “The choices for the government should not be a death finding in a civilian court, or a death finding in a military tribunal, lethal injection or a firing squad. Countless others accused of heinous crimes have pled guilty to a life without parole. There was another way. There still is.”
The feds overstepped in asserting their superior claim to jurisdiction in this case in anticipation of this very moment, and Massachusetts citizens should pay close attention as prosecutors make their case for execution. When our state outlawed the death penalty in 1984, did we really intend for that prohibition to be conditional? Tsarnaev’s crimes indeed are particularly heinous, but we cannot let emotions cloud judgment. Regardless of the jury’s sentencing decision, this trial has starkly illustrated a decline in Massachusetts’ state sovereignty in deciding — literally — life-or-death matters.
Dan Wasserman’s editorial cartoon:
It doesn’t get much more opposite than that.
UPDATE: The redoubtable Dan Kennedy ventured farther afield in the local dailies, pointing out the following at Media Nation:
Over at the Boston Herald, the message is mixed. In favor of the death penalty [is] columnist Adriana Cohen . . . Columnist Joe Fitzgerald is against capital punishment for Tsarnaev. Former mayor Ray Flynn offers a maybe, writing that he’s against the death penalty but would respect the wishes of the victims’ families.