« Blackwater guards who shot Iraqi civilians all given lengthy federal sentences | Main | Judge Jed Rakoff gives provocative speech on mass incarceration and the responsibility of lawyers and judges »

April 13, 2015

"Sister of slain MIT officer opposes death penalty for Tsarnaev"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable new Boston Globe article, which gets started this way:

The sister of murdered MIT Police Officer Sean A. Collier opposes the death penalty against one of the men responsible for his death, Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, because it would not bring “peace or justice” to her.

In a posting on Facebook and on her Twitter account, Jennifer L. Lemmerman wrote that she continues to mourn the loss of her younger brother, who was widely hailed after his murder as a person of integrity, compassion, and curiosity who was dear to the MIT community.

Lemmerman, a graduate of Boston College School of Social Work and an alderman in Melrose, wrote that she will never forgive Tsarnaev for ending her brother’s life. But, she also wrote, she does not believe in the death penalty even after what has happened to her and her family. “Whenever someone speaks out against the death penalty, they are challenged to imagine how they would feel if someone they love were killed. I’ve been given that horrible perspective and I can say that my position has only strengthened,’’ she wrote on her Facebook account.

“It has nothing to do with some pursuit of forgiveness. I can’t imagine I’ll ever forgive him for what he did to my brother, to my family, and I’ll have to live with that for the rest of my life, whether he is on this earth or not,’’ Lemmerman wrote of Tsarnaev.

She added, “But I also can’t imagine that killing in response to killing would ever bring me peace or justice. Just my perspective, but enough is enough. I choose to remember Sean for the light that he brought. No more darkness.’’

April 13, 2015 at 05:16 PM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference "Sister of slain MIT officer opposes death penalty for Tsarnaev":


Does she have any more moral standing, intellectual insight, or more persuasion than any one else?

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 14, 2015 1:05:06 AM

Some are able to forgive ; some are unable •

Posted by: Docile Jim Brady @Bend, OR 97702-3212 | Apr 14, 2015 4:13:29 AM

Supremacy, I don't know the answer to your question. But if the answer is "no", then a lot of folks are going to have to revise a lot of victim-based policy arguments in favor of the death penalty and other harsh punishments.

Posted by: anon | Apr 14, 2015 12:35:45 PM

The answer to the first question is "yes" -- family of victims "persuade" for one thing more than some random person in the population. They tend to be seen, with some justice, as having more "moral standing" to voice a position too. Their intellectual insight rests on their abilities, but those who experience things directly often again have more than the average person some more "insight" about it.

Criminal law involves the public at large, not merely individual claims, which is why opposition (or support) of the death penalty by family members are not the only thing determinative. And, victim opinions are not the be all -- victims can be wrong, immoral or lack insight. They do add to the conversation.

Posted by: Joe | Apr 14, 2015 2:20:47 PM

Anon. The current victim impact movement is lawless. It is not an attestation, but testimony, for a victim or survivor to boohoo on the stand without cross examination. For example, was there any benefit to the survivor from the death of the victim, money, the end of abuse, many victims being criminals?

There is no purpose served by attestations, save one. Eventually, victims will need representation to navigate the complex justice system, and people like Paul Cassell will get more government make work, worthless jobs.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 15, 2015 4:00:01 AM

Joe. You may be thinking of morals, justice, etc. However, there is no legal standing for the survivors.. That is why the lawyer is trying to change the law, to introduce a bystander into the legal proceeding.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 15, 2015 4:04:32 AM

I answered a reasonable question. It didn't speak of "legal standing" though we already give the victim some of that per victim impact statements etc. I think Payne v. Tennessee wrongly decided, but it doesn't make public statements of victims unwarranted.

Posted by: Joe | Apr 15, 2015 10:13:14 AM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB