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

  • Justice Antonin Scalia: The Man, The Myth, The Legend

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    The recent death of Justice Antonin Scalia, a historically conservative firebrand on the Supreme Court, sent shockwaves through the political world. In the middle of a hectic and noisy presidential primary, the Republican candidates shared a moment of silence during their ninth debate — and then dove into a conversation about whether President Barack Obama should nominate a successor.  

  • Hey, You're That Guy: Actor Paul Willson Talks Improv and an Actor's Life

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Hollywood has launched a thousand careers, and among them are the many extremely talented character actors and comedians we’ve watched for years, whose nuanced performances knock us on our asses every time we see them.

     
  • Business News: Li Gang, Millennial Mastermind and Rising VR Company CEO

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Li Gang, Dlodlo CEO, having entrenched his company as global leader in VR technology research and development, this IT-oriented entrepreneur has ushered in a new high-tech era with the launch of the wireless, portable and fashion-forward "Dlodlo VR Glasses."

     
  • Paradise Review – Lord, Forgive Them Their Trespasses

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Paradise,” from RLJ Entertainment and Mandate Pictures, is filled with misconceptions, extremism and clichés from the small town radical Christian right to the sin filled left on the Las Vegas Strip.

     
  • Steven Spielberg To Present John Williams With American Film Institute's Life Achievement Award

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Steven Spielberg will present John Williams with the American Film Institute's (AFI) 44th Life Achievement Award. This marks the first time in AFI history that America's highest honor for a career in film will be bestowed upon a composer.

     
  • Beltway Insider: Obama/ISIS/Syria/Turkey Update; Election 2016; Brie Larson

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    President Obama, speaking at the State Department, admitted his original estimation of the Islamic State was incorrect and even with a global coalition a greater enemy than previously thought, and as ISIS remains entrenched, he remains confident they will be destroyed.

     
  • Largest Rare Quahog Pearl Discovered By Bostonian Shucking Clams To Lead Bonhams Lapidary Auction

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    A rare and very large purple, non-nacreous Quahog pearl will be offered at the Lapidary Works of Art, Gemstones and Minerals auction to be held at Bonhams’ Los Angeles at 10 am Wednesday, December 7, 2016.

     
  • Sony Entertainment and Columbia Pictures Host The Green Hornet Junket

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    THE GREEN HORNET, a high energy, fast action, comedy adventure, from Sony Entertainment/Columbia Pictures recently held its press junket at the ultra-luxurious Four Seasons Beverly Hills.

     
  • A Place At The Table Review - Finally A Wake Up Call

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    “A Place At The Table,” from Magnolia Pictures and Participant Media, presents a shocking wake up call into the alarming statistics of Hunger in America through the eyes of those who understand it most.

     
  • Ultima PRO Programmable Espresso & Cappuccino Machine Review - Elegant, Modern, Café Perfection Anytime (Recipes Included)

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Capresso, the manufacturer of specialty drink machines and accessories has recently launched the Ultima PRO Programmable Espresso & Cappuccino Machine for home use marrying the elegance of a silky, smooth, espresso to the convenience of home artistry.

     
  • SPAIN Terror Attacks: Nation on High Alert as Twin Terror Attacks Leave 14 Dead; Hundreds Injured, 17 Critical

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Fourteen people are dead, and more than 100 injured after coordinated twin car/van ramming terror attacks, hours apart, struck the trendy tourist coastal city of Barcelona and Cambrils, a posh resort town 70 miles south.

     
  • North Dakota Pipeline Dissidents Michael Foster, Sam Jessup Convicted

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    After Judge Refused to Allow Climate Change Experts To Testify In Their Defense, Climate Activists Michael Foster and Sam Jessup Are Convicted on Felony Charges in North Dakota Court for Shutting Off the Keystone Tar Sands Pipeline.

 

Login Form