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Thursday, January 30, 2014

In Boston, Mixed Reaction to Death Penalty Decision in Marathon Bombings Case

When he was a state lawmaker, Martin J. Walsh, the mayor of Boston, voted against the death penalty. On Thursday, he said that he would vote the same way today.

But Mr. Walsh also said he supported the judicial process and therefore the Justice Department’s decision to seek the death penalty against the man accused of killing three people and injuring nearly 200 others in the bombings at the Boston Marathon last April. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. had the final say on whether to authorize prosecutors to seek the death penalty.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

Martin Richard, Lu Lingzi and Krystle Campbell were killed in the bombings. Sean Collier, a police officer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was shot and killed when the man accused in the case, Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, and his brother tried to flee the Boston area after the Federal Bureau of Investigation released photos of them from surveillance cameras.

In Massachusetts, where the death penalty has been abolished since 1984 and nearly 40 percent of the population is Roman Catholic, the reaction to the decision to seek the death penalty was mixed.

The Boston Globe pointed to a poll’s findings last September.

Jarrod Clowery, 36, a carpenter from Milville, Mass., who was struck by shrapnel and sustained severe burns on his legs in the bombing, told The Globe that the news had no impact on him.

“I’m moving on with my life,” Mr. Clowery said. “It has no bearing on my life whatsoever … I don’t even think about the trial or anything like that. [The attackers] were tried and convicted by a power higher than us the moment they did what they did.”

A Boston Herald reporter quoted on Twitter the grandmother of one of the victims.

The mother of two young men, Paul and J.P. Norden, of Stoneham Mass., who each lost a limb in the bombing, said she backed the attorney general’s decision.

“I just think it is important going forward, that all the options, that the death penalty is one of the options for the jurors,” the woman, Liz Norden, told WHDH-TV in Boston.

Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat, issued a statement:

One way or another, based on the evidence, Tsarnaev will die in prison. In each milestone of this case â€" today’s announcement, the trial and every other significant step in the justice process â€" the people hurt by the Marathon bombings and the rest of us so shocked by it will relive that tragedy. The best we can do is remind each other that we are a stronger Commonwealth than ever, and that nothing can break that spirit.

Juliette N. Kayyem, a former Boston Globe columnist who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, said on Facebook that she remained against the death penalty.

The crimes committed by Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were heinous. Period. I have, based on my principles and on my work in death penalty appeals litigation in Alabama, always opposed the death penalty. I have spent a career helping to protect our communities from the harms, including terrorism, that we may face. He will spend the rest of his life in prison. As a state, we move forward, resilient. We are Massachusetts.

On Ms. Kayyem’s Facebook page, one man wrote that his views about the death penalty had changed over the years, first with the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and now with the Boston Marathon bombings.

“On this issue I am conflicted,” he wrote. “My whole life I have opposed the death penalty. 9/11 my views were shaken. The act of terrorism at The Boston Marathon cemented my new position. I regret to say that I now feel that there are some crimes just so heinous that the guilty do not deserve to live among us.”

Mr. Walsh, the city’s newly elected mayor, began his remarks on the death penalty decision by offering prayers to the families of the victims “and the brave survivors whose lives have been forever changed by the events of April 15, 2013.”

“I can’t imagine what these families are feeling out there today,” Mr. Walsh said. “Over the past nine months, the people of Boston have shown the world that we are a city full of heart and courage. We stand together as one Boston in the face of evil and hatred.”