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Elizabeth Warren: We don't need to execute Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to punish him

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) on Thursday said she opposes the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a day after the 21-year-old was convicted for the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

"The alternative to the death penalty is not as if you turn this guy free," Warren, who's considered a rising star in the Democratic Party for her liberal views, said on CBS This Morning. "The point is that he stays in prison, he dies in prison, he's put away. He's not a danger to anyone else, and he's not a part of an ongoing story."

Warren's comments come as Tsarnaev's trial moves into the sentencing phase, which will decide whether he gets death or life in prison. Tsarnaev was found guilty on Wednesday of all 30 charges stemming from the Boston bombing, which killed three people and injured more than 260 others.

Warren's position is very popular in Boston, where the marathon bombing took place. Although a 2014 Gallup poll found 63 percent of all Americans support the death penalty, a 2013 Boston Globe poll found 57 percent of Boston residents favor a life sentence for Tsarnaev, compared with 33 percent who said he should get death. The Boston Globe editorial board also called on the jury to spare Tsarnaev the death penalty.

Tsarnaev's trial has always been about the death penalty

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

Mario Tama/Getty Images

A TV near the site of the Boston Marathon bombing displays Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's picture. (Mario Tama/Getty Images News)

Federal prosecutors are seeking the death sentence for Tsarnaev, making his trial a rare example of a federal death penalty case. The death penalty is banned in Massachusetts, but Tsarnaev's case has fallen under federal jurisdiction, which allows capital punishment.

Last year, outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, who personally opposes the death penalty, authorized prosecutors to pursue capital punishment in the Tsarnaev case, the New York Times reported. US Attorney Carmen Ortiz argued in court filings that the death penalty was justified because, among several reasons, Dzhokhar had used a weapon of mass destruction — the bomb at the Boston marathon — and shown no remorse for his actions.


The trial is taking place in two phases. The first phase decided whether Dzhokhar is guilty. The second, which will begin now that he's been deemed guilty, will decide his sentence. Those decisions could be appealed to higher courts, as is particularly common with death penalty cases.

Judy Clarke, Tsarnaev's attorney, has made a career out of preventing executions of high-profile criminals, including the Unabomber and Jared Loughner, who killed six when he attempted to assassinate former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) in 2011. Throughout the trial, she characterized Tsarnaev, who was 19 at the time of the bombing and held no criminal record, as manipulated into the attack by Tamerlan Tsarnaev, his older brother — a strategy focused on reducing his sentence.

"It matters because we are entitled to know the full picture," Clarke said in her closing comments, according to the Times. "We don't deny that Jahar fully participated in the events," she said, using Dzhokhar's nickname, "but if not for Tamerlan, it would not have happened."

Further reading: The Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Boston Marathon bombing trial, explained

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