Boston Bomber Sentencing: Hank Brennan, Boston Legal Scholar, Explains the Death Penalty Phase

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is set to begin the sentencing phase of his trial. To understand the jury's responsibilities, Hank Brennan, former Boston prosecutor and current defense attorney in the appeal for notorious mobster James "Whitey" Bulger agreed to explain.

Federal Death Penalty Act

The next phase of the United States v. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev trial is what is commonly called the "death penalty phase." In Federal Court the procedure has been codified and is known as the Federal Death Penalty Act (FDPA). This statue can be found at U.S. Code Title 18, Part II c.228.  

The jury will consider both aggravating and mitigating circumstances relative to the qualifying convictions.

A qualifying conviction is an indictment (often called a charge) that the defendant was found guilty for which qualifies for the penalty of death. Not all convictions qualify for the death penalty.  

The prosecution will call witnesses, primarily victims or family members of victims.  The witnesses have an opportunity to emote and may testify to the impact inflicted upon them by the defendant's acts or they may read pre-written impact statements describing the physical, emotional, and financial impact caused by the defendant's crimes.

The defense may also introduce witnesses to attempt to demonstrate any relevant mitigating factor on behalf of the defendant. After considering the evidence the jury decides whether death should be imposed. If the jury chooses that death should not be imposed, the judge will impose a sentence that will inevitably be a life sentence without parole.  

Aggravating and Mitigating Factors

Aggravating and Mitigating Factors are found in U.S. Code Title 18, Part II c.228  § 3592.

Mitigating factors include impaired capacity, duress, being a minor participant, no prior criminal record, equally or more culpable co-defendant, and other factors including the defendant's past character.  

Aggravating factors are numerous and include whether death occurred during the commission of another crime, a grave risk of death to additional persons, if the offense was committed in an especially heinous, cruel, or depraved manner in that it involved torture or serious physical abuse to the victim, substantial planning and premeditation to cause the death of a person or commit an act of terrorism, the particular vulnerability of the victim due to old age, youth, or infirmity, and whether the defendant intentionally killed or attempted to kill more than one person in a single criminal episode.

Jury Determines Aggravating and Mitigating Factors

The jury's must return special finding identifying any aggravating factors. All jurors must unanimously agree for any aggravating factor to be deemed established.

A finding of any mitigating factor, however, may be made by 1 or more members of the jury. Upon a finding of a mitigating factor by at least one member of the jury, the factor is deemed established.

The jury will consider whether all the aggravating factor or factors found to exist sufficiently outweigh all the mitigating factor or factors found to exist to justify a sentence of death, or, in the absence of a mitigating factor, whether the aggravating factor or factors alone are sufficient to justify a sentence of death. The jury will then recommend whether the defendant should be sentenced to death, to life imprisonment without possibility of release or some other lesser sentence.

A recommendation to sentence to death must be by a unanimous vote.

 

Haute Tease

  • First Run Features Presents The World Premiere Of In The Land Of Pomegranates

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Academy Award-Nominated Filmmaker Hava Kohav Beller and First Run Features is proud to announce the theatrical premiere of In the Land of Pomegranates, a documentary opening January 5, 2018 at Lincoln Plaza Cinema in New York City.  

  • Pacific Opera Project takes on Shakespeare and Verdi in a Cemetery with Falstaf

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    This September, Pacific Opera Project (POP) continues its successful run of presenting engaging productions in unique venues across Los Angeles with Giuseppe Verdi’s Falstaff, presented outdoors at the top of Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Museum Plaza) in Glendale.  

  • Ten Live Action Shorts Advance in 2014 OSCAR® Race

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    LOS ANGELES, CA – The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences today announced that 10 live action short films will advance in the voting process for the 87th Academy Awards®.  One hundred forty-one pictures had originally qualified in the category.

     
  • Fox Searchlight Pictures Announces Date Change for ENOUGH SAID

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    "Enough Said" the final film for the late James Gandolfini and starring Julie Louis-Dreyfus, has changed the release date for the romantic comedy according to Fox Searchlight Pictures publicity who announced the modification via email.

     
  • Money News: US Markets Gain; World Markets Split; S&P500 Sets New Record

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    The Dow Jones Industrial Average as well as the three other top America Indices had nice gains over the past week. Russell 2000, the NASDAQ and S&P500 all had a strong week, gaining enough momentum, in the respectable index to end strong with the DOW remaining above the 17,000 point record set over one month ago.

     
  • Kids On Bridges, With a Stone’s Groove and Gang of Four Riff, Are Heralded as The NuWave British Invasion

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Kids on Bridges, the Liverpool trio, fresh from a support slot with Grammy Award Winner Beck and shows with The Hot 8 Brass Band, Soulwax and Calvin Harris, are set to unleash a new single "Just Because You Can."  

  • Amidst Lurid Accusations Matt Lauer Issues An Apology; Network Denies Prior Knowledge

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Defrocked NBC Today host Matt Lauer issued an apology to his victims, family, friends, and network, one day after the network terminated the twenty-year veteran over substantiated allegations of sexual misconduct, rape, and other inappropriate actions.