By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Where Boston’s papers stand on death for Tsarnaev

The Boston Globe today offers some powerful arguments against executing convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Metro columnists Kevin Cullen and Yvonne Abraham weigh in, as do the paper’s editorial page, civil-liberties lawyer Harvey Silverglate and retired federal judge Nancy Gertner. (Columnist Jeff Jacoby has previously written in favor of death for Tsarnaev.)

Over at the Boston Herald, the message is mixed. In favor of the death penalty are columnist Adriana Cohen and editorial-page editor Rachelle Cohen. The lead editorial calls for the death penalty as well. 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.

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  1. History lesson: the first leader to oppose capital punishment, in favor of life imprisonment, was Julius Caesar– he argued that those behind the Cataline conspiracy to overthrow the Senate should be confined to prison for the rest of their lives.

    Romans were horrified at the idea, and that anyone would be so cruel as to force a guilty man to contemplate his actions for the rest of his life; eventually he would come to regret what he did, and still have no hope of redemption. They thought death was a far more dignified end.

    I agree, hence I want this guy in prison for the next 50-60 years.

  2. Aaron Read

    Calculating the cost of prosecuting someone in a capital case is tricky, but a few minutes of Googling reveals numbers around $2 to $3mil. A lot of that, oddly enough, is prison costs…keeping people on death row is far more expensive than other parts of prison. I haven’t found any specific info for how much Tsarnaev’s prosecution is expected to total, but I’m guessing it’s comparable. Probably not as much as McVeigh’s did ($13.8mil in 1997 dollars).

    Now, if he gets life, it’s a good bet he’ll do it in the Supermax prison in Florence, CO. Average annual cost there is $42-$48k/yr. I imagine he’ll get the worst and that’s probably the most expensive, so let’s assume he’s on the high end and call it $60k/yr.

    Assuming Tsarnaev lives another 50 years…which if he survives the next 12 months, I’d say his odds of going another 50 aren’t all that bad…then that’s $3mil. Close to a wash.

    I really hope I’m not alone in remarking how messed up that is.

    I happen to think that 50 years in supermax is far worse torture than death (and a lot of the reports of what being in Florence does to people backs me up here) so I suppose giving him life is both cheaper AND satisfies our thirst for revenge.

  3. Keith Saunders

    Good ol’ Ray Flynn. He’s against the Death Penalty because it is against curch doctrine. He is in favor of letting the victims and their families decide because of what other doctrine? His suggestion does not comport with the constitution. Victims do not prosecute criminals, the state does. And victims are legally disqualified from serving on juries, because of potential personal biases. The Herald’s editors are not much brighter, for printing Flynn’s piece, as if it posed a legal option. He should have just said he was against the death penalty.

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