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

  • Donnie Wahlberg Rocks Chicagoland Raising $759k to Help Kids with Autism for Generation Rescue (Photos)

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    New Kids On The Block member Donnie Wahlberg joined forces with Generation Rescue for Another Evening with Donnie Wahlberg and Special Guests concert, raising $759,000 to spread awareness and help fund autism treatment for low-income and at-risk families.

     
  • Seven Features Films Advance In Race For Makeup and Hair Styling OSCAR®

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    LOS ANGELES, CA – The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences today announced that seven films remain in competition in the Makeup and Hairstyling category for the 87th Academy Awards®.

     
  • Smithsonian Channel Celebrates The 65th Anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    In a global event, in partnership with the BBC and Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Smithsonian Channel shares the compelling story of the Crown Jewels and the ancient ceremony for which they are used in THE CORONATION.

     
  • American Film Institute Announces AFI Awards 2017 Official Selections

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    The American Film Institute (AFI) announced today the Official Selections of AFI AWARDS 2017, celebrating the year's most outstanding achievements in the art of the moving image — with 10 films and 10 television programs deemed culturally and artistically significant.  

  • D23 Expo Disney Fan Event To Be Held In Japan In 2018

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    The Walt Disney Company (Japan) announced today that it will stage D23 Expo Japan 2018, a special event for Disney fans created by D23: The Official Disney Fan Club, from February 10 to February 12, 2018, at Tokyo Disney Resort in Maihama.  

  • HL Wellness: Do You Need A Therapist -These 5 Signs Point to Yes

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    You lose a loved one, a job, a relationship, a pet or get into an accident, have an injury, gain weight, have a baby, return from war or experience something else that just rattles you to your core. You know something isn’t right, you feel a bit off, but continue living your life thinking you’ll get over it. We all have been there and often with time we do get over it, sort of.

     
  • Strad Style, Dim The Fluorescents, Dave Made A Maze, Take Top Prizes at 2017 Slamdance Film Festival

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    The 23rd Slamdance Film Festival tonight announced the feature and short film recipients of this year's Sparky awards in the Audience, Jury, and Sponsored Categories. The award winners were announced at the festival's annual Awards Ceremony at the Treasure Mountain Inn in Park City, UT.