Login Form

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

  • For Seekers of California Sun, Fun, Food, and Rock-n-Roll - Welcome to Buena Park California

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Nestled in California’s Orange County, the city of Buena Park is a beacon for fun-loving family travelers. Comprised of approximately eleven square miles, this small town packs a huge travel and tourism punch, boasting some of the world’s most well-known theme parks and attractions.  

     
  • Fashion Week 2014, Trends Past - Rebecca Taylor Spring Collection 2008

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    As NYC Fashion Week begins a look back at trends past beginning with The Rebecca Taylor Spring 2008 Show held when the tents were at Bryant Park after previewing funky fuchsias’ and arresting reds, slinky camisoles and sexy slip tops to standing room only crowd of buyers, trendsetters, fashionistas, publishers and media.

     
  • TOP FIVE, from Chris Rock and Paramount Pictures, Opens December

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Pulsing with the rhythm of his greatest stand-up, Chris Rock’s TOP FIVE takes things to the next level, reveling in the high and the low, and blending a star-studded comedic romp with an irresistible romance.

     
  • Garry Marshall, Show Creator and Beloved Director, Dies

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Garry Marshall, director, creator, actor, writer and personality, who enjoyed more than six decades making Hollywood memories and known for his uncanny ability to capture the heartstrings of audiences everywhere, passed away due to complications from pneumonia. He was 81.

     
  • London Hip Hop Collective 'Rotten Hill Gang' Featuring BBC 6 Music Favorite Hollie Cook

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    In true Hip Hop style they who pull no punches when it comes to saying it how it really is. With a plethora of talent under one roof Rotten Hill Gang are a breath of fresh London air.  

  • Awards Rules Approved For 88th Oscars® Campaign Regulations Updated For New Awards Season

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    The Academy’s Board of Governors approved Oscars rulesand campaign regulations for the 88th Academy Awards® at their most recent Board meeting along with other amendments to the rules that include standard date changes and other “housekeeping” adjustments.  

  • Film Independent Selects Thirty Filmmakers For Project Involve 2018; 25th Anniversary Of Diversity Mentorship Program

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Film Independent, the non-profit arts organization that produces the Spirit Awards and the LA Film Festival, has selected 30 filmmakers for Project Involve, the organization's signature diversity mentorship program, that this year celebrates its 25th anniversary.