Now that a federal appeals-court panel has set aside a jury’s death-penalty sentence for the perpetrator of the horrific bombing at the 2013 Boston Marathon, the Attorney General of the United States must decide whether to continue to pursue that sentence, rather than life without parole. The Boston Bar Association urges him to use this opportunity for reflection and let the case rest.
The Massachusetts US Attorney’s Office successfully prosecuted the case in 2015, winning a guilty verdict that is not being appealed and that will therefore result in the surviving bomber spending the remainder of his days in federal prison. That should be enough.
We have repeatedly expressed our opposition to capital punishment, not only because of the clear racial disparities in its application and the inevitability of error, but also because — as we stated in our 2013 report, and as has been demonstrated again by this case — death-penalty prosecutions are more expensive, more subject to prolonged delays, and unlikely to produce a different result than cases where the prosecution seeks life without parole.
What we said then remains true today: “The pursuit of the death penalty in federal cases is almost always an empty and inordinately expensive gesture, inconsistent with the sensible allocation of resources in a criminal justice system already laboring under great financial strain.”
Only the US Attorney General has the final authority to halt that pursuit. We hope that he does so.