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

  • Oregon School Shooting Brings Total to 74 Since Sandy Hook Massacre

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Freshman Emilio Hoffman was shot and killed when a lone gunman entered Reynolds High School in Troutdale, Oregon, yesterday, and opened fire killing the 14 year old before turning the gun on himself.

     
  • Kingsmen: Golden Circle Review – Unbridled Wild West Meets British Reserve

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Kingsmen: Golden Circle, from 20th Century Fox Films and Marv Films, presents a brawling, roadhouse, wild west clash with suited British reserve for a cataclysmic explosion of gismo's, gadgets, big guns, trick roping, whiskey shooters and world class action.

     
  • Actress and Baby Model Kaleah Roundtree - Baby, Oh Baby, Is She a Beautiful Baby

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Kaleah Roundtree, a beautiful two year old actress and baby model, is on the verge of becoming the most sought after African American baby talent since her role model, former Cosby Show actress, Raven Symone.

     
  • LA Arts: Academy Museum Of Motion Pictures Announces Its Inaugural Exhibitions

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Kerry Brougher, Director of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, announced today Hayao Miyazaki followed by Regeneration: Black Cinema 1900–1970 will be the inaugural exhibitions on view when the Museum opens in late 2019. 

     
  • Dr. Michael Tick Explains When It Comes to Skincare Ingredients, Women & Men's Skin Are Not Created Equal

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Besides having facial hair, there are structural differences between a man’s skin and a woman’s. Androgen (testosterone) stimulation causes an increase in skin thickness, which accounts for why a man’s skin is about 25% thicker than a woman’s.

     
  • Beltway Insider: Obama Showdown, Alaska, China, Iran, Election; Austria; Gun Violence; Ukraine

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    President Obama begins a three day trip to Alaska stumping for his climate initiatives in a recession scarred Republican controlled state, a flat-lined economy, holding an olive branch to constituents and renaming Mt. McKinley to its original "Denali."

     
  • Bentley Designs Signature Suite at New York’s Iconic St. Regis Hotel

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Bentley Motor and the St. Regis Hotel New York are delighted to announce the debut of a one-of-a-kind hotel suite at the iconic Manhattan landmark, the first hotel suite design collaboration for the luxury lifestyle provider.

     
  • Exubérante Amérique du Sud...

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    L'instabilité quasi-chronique du continent sud-américain irrite Europe et Etats-Unis à la recherche de partenaires économiques et diplomatiques posés. Mais l'ADN du continent entrave ce vœu au point de pousser les deux acteurs à s'éloigner des remous actuels.