Should Bombing Survivors’ Opinions Impact Death Penalty?

Jurors will soon begin debating whether to sentence Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death or to life in prison.

The survivors of the bombings and relatives of those who were killed undoubtedly have mixed opinions.

"I don't think the victims should ever feel the weight or the burden of making a decision in terms of whether or not to pursue a death sentence," said former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan. "I think it should be the government's call."

The family of Martin Richard, the little boy who was killed at the finish line, weighed in on Friday, writing in the Boston Globe that the death penalty should be taken off the table.

Sullivan says it likely did not come as a surprise to federal prosecutors.

"I suspect there's probably been conversations with all the victims' families long before the news story today," said Sullivan. "I suspect they probably had several conversations with the Richard family over the course of these past couple of years."

Necn legal editor Randy Chapman says the Richard essay will likely not be admissible when the penalty phase of the trial begins.

"The victims and victims' family members will be testifying, many of them, including perhaps even the Richards, but the judge won't allow them to speak about everything and probably won't let them discuss what their personal views are as to the appropriate penalty," said Chapman. "That's for the jury to decide, not the individual victims."

Neither Chapman nor Sullivan think the opinion piece written by Bill and Denise Richard will change the government's stance. They don't expect prosecutors to drop the death penalty option.

"They're getting their marching orders from the attorney general and presumably also from the president," said Chapman. "So I think it's extraordinarily unlikely that they're going to change gears based upon this editorial."

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