Massachusetts Congressional Delegation Generally Opposes Death Penalty For Boston Marathon Bomber

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Should the Boston Marathon bomber receive the death penalty?

Most of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation says no.

The U.S. Department of Justice wants Dzhokar Tsarnaev to receive the death penalty for his role in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing — even though sitting president Joe Biden opposes capital punishment. The federal First Circuit Court of Appeals vacated Tsarnaev’s death sentence last year, but the U.S. Supreme Court plans to hear the case this upcoming fall; the court will likely make a decision on it in the summer of 2022.

U.S. Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-Dorchester) vehemently opposes the death penalty — including using it on Tsarnaev.

While she thinks the 2013 bombing that left three dead and dozens injured was “devastating,” she told Politico this week that “no nation should be in the business of executing people.”

Additionally, she said that Biden “has repeatedly expressed his opposition to the death penalty and has the historic opportunity to finally bring an end to this inhumane, racist and flawed practice. I am deeply disappointed that the Department of Justice would move in conflict with the President’s stated policy position and abandon promises made to voters.”

U.S. Representative Seth Moulton (D-Salem), isn’t for killing Tsarnaev ,either. He told Politico that Tsarnaev is a “terrorist and a punk,” but Moulton also said he is “fundamentally opposed to the death penalty.” One reason is that he thinks there is “no way to guarantee the United States will not kill an innocent person.”

A spokesman for U.S. Representative Jim McGovern (D-Worcester) expressed a similar sentiment, telling Politico that McGovern “does not, and has never, supported the death penalty.”

NewBostonPost on Wednesday contacted all U.S. House members from Massachusetts who have not commented on the Tsarnaev case previously this week and both of the state’s U.S. senators.

A press spokesman for Senator Ed Markey (D-Malden) referred NewBostonPost to an April 2015 Boston Globe story that says:  “US Senator Edward J. Markey, for instance, says Tsarnaev should not get the death penalty.” There was no quote from Markey in the story.

The 2015 story also noted that U.S. representatives Katherine Clark (D-Melrose) and Richard Neal (D-Springfield) oppose killing Tsarnaev.

The story stemmed from Senator Elizabeth Warren telling CBS This Morning in April 2015 that she opposed the death penalty for the Marathon bomber.

“You know, my heart goes out to the families here, but I don’t support the death penalty,” Warren said in that appearance.” “I think that he should spend his life in jail. No possibility of parole; he should die in prison.”

Warren has reiterated her opposition to the death penalty in recent years.

In December 2020, Warren tweeted out, “Capital punishment is too often biased against Black and Brown people and those with a mental illness. Congress should abolish the death penalty.”

And while U.S. Representative Lori Trahan (D-Westford) hasn’t weighed in on the matter — and her office did not respond to NewBostonPost’s request for comment Wednesday — she opposes capital punishment at the federal level. She co-sponsored the Federal Death Penalty Prohibition Act (H.R.262), introduced in Congress by Pressley.

However, there is at least one outlier in the Massachusetts delegation — and potentially three:  U.S Representative Jake Auchincloss (D-Newton), and possibly Congressmen Bill Keating (D-Bourne) and Stephen Lynch (D-South Boston). 

A spokesman for Auchincloss told Politico that, “given the circumstances” of the case, “Jake respects the Justice Department’s decision.”

Lynch was in full support of giving Tsarnaev the death penalty in January 2014 — although he hasn’t weighed in on the issue since, so it’s unclear if he still feels that way.

Here is what Lynch said in a statement at the time:


I support Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to seek the death penalty in the case of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Capital punishment should be reserved for extreme cases — sought only as punishment for the most heinous and evil of crimes.  Given the circumstances in the Boston Marathon bombings — a premeditated terrorist attack on innocent victims on American soil — I believe that this most extreme punishment should be available to the jury.

We remain a nation of laws. And I believe that Attorney General Holder has correctly applied the law to the particularly heinous, depraved and premeditated attacks against defenseless victims.

Four innocent lives were lost in these events, and many hundreds of others were changed forever. I hope that in time we will dwell less on the fate of one twisted and hate-filled individual and more on the memory of the remarkable loved ones who we lost, the courage of the survivors and the heroism of all those who courageously responded to this attack.


Keating, who hasn’t weighed in on the matter since April of 2015, didn’t have a strong opinion on it the last time he did.

“Yesterday’s verdict is a death sentence in either outcome because Tsarnaev will die in jail even if he ultimately doesn’t face a capital punishment sentence,” Keating told ABC6 in April 2015. “I have personally opposed the death penalty throughout my career; however, America is a rule of law country and as a former DA, I believe it is up to the committed citizens of the jury to decide whether Tsarnaev should be sentenced to capital punishment under our laws.”

At the state level, Massachusetts doesn’t have the death penalty. The state Supreme Judicial Court ruled it unconstitutional in 1984 in the case Com. v. Colon-Cruz, However, Tsarnaev is eligible for capital punishment because he was tried on federal charges.

Most Bay Staters didn’t support the death penalty for Tsarnaev the last time there was a poll on the issue. In April 2015, a Boston Globe poll said that 19 percent of Bay Staters wanted Tsarnaev to face the death penalty while 63 percent thought he should get life in prison.

Nationwide, the death penalty remains popular. Gallup says that 55 percent of Americans supported capital punishment as of 2020 while 43 percent opposed it.

Spokesmen for Warren, Neal, Trahan, Clark, Lynch, and Keating could not be reached for comment on Wednesday. 


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