This month was surprising. The federal jury in Massachusetts that heard the evidence against Dzokhar Tsarnaev chose to sentence the Boston Marathon bomber to death. In Massachusetts, capital punishment was abolished in 1984. A majority of citizens are opposed to the death penalty. Because the Boston Marathon bombing trial was a federal case, however, federal law controlled and federal prosecutors sought the death penalty. It is surprising that all twelve jurors in a state that opposes capital punishment sought to sentence Mr. Tsarnaev to death. It could be argued that the jury on a death penalty case never reflects the general population and is not a jury of the defendant’s peers. Any prospective juror who announces that he would be unable to impose the death penalty on moral grounds gets excluded from the jury.
Meanwhile, Nebraska, of all places, abolished capital punishment last week. The 30 to 19 vote of the state legislature was enough to override the veto of the governor. Governor Pete Ricketts vowed to proceed with executions as quickly as possible until the bill goes into effect in three months!