The Slatest

Elizabeth Warren Opposes Death Penalty for Tsarnaev, but Her Constitutents Don’t

Elizabeth Warren during her Thursday CBS appearance.

Screen shot/CBS

Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was convicted Wednesday of 17 federal charges punishable by death, and the jury that convicted him will now decide whether he’ll be executed. Appearing on CBS This Morning on Thursday, the state’s most nationally prominent politician—Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren—maintained her previously stated opposition to the death penalty and said she believes Tsarnaev should be sentenced to life in prison. Said Warren: “My heart goes out to the families here, but I don’t support the death penalty. I think he should spend his life in jail, no possibility of parole.”

While Tsarnaev is certainly a figure of great public revilement in Boston, the city is also known for its liberal politics, and it appears that the majority of the city’s residents agree with Warren on this issue. In a WBUR survey of Greater Boston, 49 percent of respondents said Tsarnaev should face life in prison, while only 38 percent supported execution. In Massachusetts as a whole, though, the sentiment seems to be reversed: A July 2014 Boston Globe poll ahead of that year’s November elections found that 62 percent of likely voters supported the federal Justice Department’s decision to pursue the death penalty in Tsarnaev’s case, while only 29 percent opposed it. Charlie Baker, the Republican who won the state’s governorship in that election, supports the death penalty in Tsarnaev’s case.

Executions are rarely a political issue in Massachusetts, which abolished state use of the practice in 1984 and has not been the site of an execution since 1947. But as this Bloomberg piece points out, Tsarnaev is not the only federal defendant in the state who may be sentence to the penalty this year: In 2011 a judge vacated the death sentence of Gary Lee Sampson, who carjacked and murdered three people in 2001, and a retrial is expected in 2015. (Sampson pleaded guilty, so the trial will address only his punishment.) While murder is typically prosecuted at the state level, Sampson is subject to the death penalty because murders committed during carjackings can be considered federal crimes.

Read more of Slate’s coverage of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s trial.