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

  • Reese Witherspoon to Star in Nick Hornby’s Adaptation of New York Times Best-Seller Wild

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    LOS ANGELES, CA July 16, 2013 – Fox Searchlight Pictures Presidents Stephen Gilula and Nancy Utley announced today that the company has acquired worldwide rights to Oscar nominated writer Nick Hornby’s (“An Education”, “High Fidelity”) adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s NY Times #1 best-seller, the book that re-launched Oprah’s Book Club 2.0, “WILD.”

     
  • Celebrity Real State News: Enrique’s Former Miami Mansion, with Prime Bay and Skyline Views, On Market

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    The Iglesias men cover a wide range of music genres.  Father Julio, now 73, with his chiseled features, deeply romantic songs, and smooth bedroom voice, with a law degree on the side, has sold over 120 million records.  

     
  • Gingrich Departs; Romney Santorum Meet - The Road to the White House - Election 2012 - Week 18

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Newt Gingrich, former GOP Presidential hopeful and Speaker of the House, made it official this week with the announcement he has suspended his bid for the Republican Presidential Nomination.

     
  • Business News: The Evaporating American Homeownership Dream Verses Higher Education

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Picture a home of your own, a white-picket fence, front porch, yard or view. Sound like a fairy tale? Homeownership appears increasingly elusive to a large population subset, but a whopping 72% or $8.74 trillion of U.S. debt is mortgage-related, according to MarketWatch.  

  • Josh Hutcherson, Scarlett Johansson, Zoe Saldana And Octavia Spencer To Present At 87th Oscars®

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Josh Hutcherson, Scarlett Johansson, Zoe Saldana and Octavia Spencer will be presenters at this year's Oscars, show producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron announced today. The Oscars, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, will air on Sunday, February 22, live on ABC.

Crime

  • People Exclusive: Husband of Murdered Texas Fitness Instructor Shares Theory on Who Killed His Wife: 'It Had to Be Someone She Knew'

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Brandon Bevers, the husband of a Texas fitness instructor who was found dead inside a church last month just before she was to teach an early morning class, believes his wife knew her killer.

     
  • Ariel Castro Found Hanged to Death in his Cell

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Ariel Castro, the man found guilty of holding three Cleveland women hostage for over a decade and sentence to life plus 1000 years in prison, was found hanged to death in his prison cell.

     
  • James Bulger Appeal Deadline Nears

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    James Bulger, the notorious Boston mobster convicted in what has been called a sham proceeding, is fighting for the chance at a new trial to present evidence of alleged deals he had with members of the Massachusetts State law enforcement.

     
  • Boston Man Charged In Child Kidnapping Cannibalism Plot

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Geoffrey Portway, the final of three men who met online, has been charged with sending explicit messages that included plotting to kidnap, rape, torture, and murder children and then dismember and eat them.

     
  • People Video Exclusive: WATCH: Video of Marine Veteran Allegedly Held Captive at Motel for 4 Years that Led Cops to Rescue Him

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    New details are emerging in the case of an 81-year-old Korean War veteran with dementia allegedly held hostage in a Highland Falls, New York, motel room for four years by a man stealing his pension and Social Security checks.

Theatre, Music, Books

  • Living A Life That Matters: A Memoir of the Marquis de Lafayette Review – Surprisingly Interesting

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Penned by renowned Civil Rights attorney David M. Weitzman, Living A Life That Matters will not jump off the shelf for the causal bookstore window shopper. The title, the image all suggest an intellectual read reserved for professors, scholars, politicians and the like.  

  • HL Artist Interview: Joshua Haupt, the Steve Jobs of Marijuana, Talks Epilepsy, The Cost of Weed Knowledge and The Burning Debate

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    While the debate rages over medicinal marijuana in conservative states, one young man in Colorado is moving forward, with a mission. Undeterred by the challenges Joshua Haupt has partnered with several major consumer goods giants to introduce cannabis as an alternative treatment.   

     
  • The Fifth Letter Review - Page Turning Legal Thriller

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    The Fifth Letter, a novel by research scholar Dr. Vivian Carpenter, introduces Katherine Helena Ross, the first black female Supreme Court justice caught between her conscience and political expedience when forced to consider the most important question facing the U.S. Supreme Court today: Who is a person with inalienable rights?  

  • NYPD Green Book Review - Page Turning Detective Thriller

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    NYPD Green, a memoir from Luke Waters, details his life from undocumented Irish immigrant to ranking detective in one of the largest police departments in the world solving horrendous cases and the interactions and working with other judicial agencies.

     
  • Coffee Table Art For the Intellectually Promiscuous

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Coffee Table Art, considered the staple for the difficult on our Christmas list, has changed over the years and with the internet bookstore finding that perfect tome, a keepsake, a DIY guide, the best images of seven continents has never been easier.