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April 24, 2013

"Balancing the State and Federal Roles in Boston Bomber Case"

The title of this post is the headline of this new article via Stateline, and here are some excerpts that reinforce my sense that at least some Masschusetts officials are quite pleased the feds have taken over the initial prosecution in this case because of the availability of the death penalty:

It’s not clear that anyone in Massachusetts is objecting to a potential death sentence in the bombings that killed three and injured hundreds, and in fact, a bipartisan group of lawmakers filed a bill Tuesday to reinstate the death penalty.  “What if he were not going to be federally charged?” said Republican Rep. Shaunna O’Connell in an interview with the Boston Globe.  “In Massachusetts, there would be no death penalty for him.”

The federal interest in the case against Tsarnaev is national security and the so far, state and federal authorities are cooperating.  There’s no federalism ground for the state of Massachusetts to object to a death sentence, said Robert Chesney, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law, since the federal charge carries a federal death sentence.  The final decision on whether to seek the death penalty will be made by Attorney General Eric Holder.

Currently, the state does not plan to introduce state charges against Tsarnaev, said Jake Wark, press secretary for the Suffolk County district attorney who handles all violent crime in Boston.  Wark said that in the first few hours after the explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office was responsible for the case and handled it like any triple murder investigation.  But after the call came from Washington late Monday afternoon, the district attorney’s office deferred to the United States Attorney’s Office to proceed with the terrorism investigation.

Gov. Deval Patrick has been silent on the issue since the bombings, but said in 2005, “The death penalty can never be made foolproof, it is not a deterrent, and the huge costs incurred in capital proceedings divert resources away from actually fighting and prosecuting crime.”

So far in the investigation, federal, state and local authorities have worked together nearly seamlessly.  David Laufman, a former federal prosecutor in the Eastern District of Virginia, said that is the result of 10 years of relationship building between the FBI and state and local law enforcement.  In Boston, the joint terrorism task force, headed by the U.S. Department of Justice and FBI but also staffed with state and local officers, is taking the lead in the investigation.

“The FBI took some lumps in the 9/11 era for big-footing state and local law enforcement in national security and in other cases,” said Laufman, “but the FBI’s made a concerted effort to improve state and local relationships and now there are much better working relationships for the FBI to work in cases like this.”

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April 24, 2013 at 04:26 PM | Permalink


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“The death penalty can never be made foolproof"

▽ Not applicable with this Islamist (Dzhokhar Tsarnaev)▽

Posted by: Adamakis | Apr 24, 2013 4:37:36 PM

"Mass. gov: No idea on Boston bomb suspects' motive" - I4U News, 4/21/13

It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious.

[Gov. Patrick is still trying to divine whether gravitational force is related to mass.]

Posted by: Adamakis | Apr 24, 2013 4:55:04 PM

I would like to see Gov. Patrick asked, "Do you think the Boston Marathon bomber deserves the death penalty? Do you think any sane person could doubt his guilt? Do you not trust juries enough to weigh the aggravating factors, such as child murder and terrorist murder, against any mitigating ones?"

Time for Patrick to explain why the DP should not be employed here, if that's what he thinks.

Abolitionist, meet reality. Hamburger, meet grinder.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 24, 2013 5:51:09 PM

Not really surprising -- it's a big job and a major headache, so let the feds handle it. The thing is national enough that it's reasonable enough to do it, at least enough for them to defend it if anyone cares. The actual charges are tied to the weapons of mass destruction that affect interstate commerce. At this level, that makes sense. If IC can justify regulation of employee regulations at a store, it surely covers violence that endangers the Boston Marathon.

States are open to federal involvement in various cases where the USSC declared something unconstitutional. People also at times support infringement of rights. So, of course, that would not necessarily be the determining factor. To the degree, as at least one person here feared, it is a means to avoid responsibility, more the charm.

Posted by: Joe | Apr 24, 2013 5:57:45 PM

Joe --

Virginia handled the Beltway sniper, who also killed in Maryland, without anyone's needing or much caring about federal involvement, and notwithstanding that the case was a "big job and a major headache."

The reason people then were happy to let Virginia handle it is the same reason people now are happy to let the feds handle the Boston Marathon bomber: They know he deserves the DP and that there's only one jurisdiction that can give it to him.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 24, 2013 6:14:40 PM

This crime has a much more national feel with terrorism, international flavor, weapons of mass destruction and so forth. That is the vibe I'm getting. "People" are more concerned at the moment of trying to get a handle of what exactly happened. They also don't see it as purely a local crime.

I realize some are jumping a few steps and already thinking about the death penalty. Also, a plea bargain where the d.p. is taken off the table is quite possible. I don't know. They didn't even formally decide to put it on the table.

The governor is on the record saying he had a problem with the death penalty. We can of course assume all we want on just what the motives are. If the d.p. wasn't on the table any more, I think they very well would be fine to let the feds deal with the whole thing.

Posted by: Joe | Apr 24, 2013 10:09:46 PM

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