In the coming weeks, 12 men and women from eastern Massachusetts will be impaneled to determine the fate of accused Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. As the trial unfolds, the Globe aims to have its opinion pages be a forum for our readers and the public’s reactions to the proceedings — can Tsarnaev receive a fair trial? Is he guilty beyond a reasonable doubt? Does his age matter? Should he be executed? Will sentencing bring closure?
To this end, we recently asked the firm SocialSphere to poll 1,000 Massachusetts residents, raising many of these very questions. What is clear is that most respondents — 81 percent — felt Boston survived the Marathon attacks and became stronger as a result. But also stark, however, was the fact that the city and its inhabitants didn’t go unscathed. This crime has influenced notions of justice, of safety, of who should be our neighbors, where our soldiers should be sent. In short, these results reflect what has been said so frequently: The impact of these terrorist attacks — and the fear they inflicted — reverberated far beyond the direct victims and hit the city and region as a whole.
In contrast to national polls, people in Massachusetts — and those in the Globe poll — generally prefer life in prison to capital punishment in first-degree murder cases. In the poll, however, that preference narrowed in the Tsarnaev case, where suddenly nearly half of respondents believed he should be executed if convicted. Only millennials stand firm in their belief that Tsarnaev’s life should be saved. This finding isn’t surprising, according to Phoebe Ellsworth, a law professor at the University of Michigan who studies public attitudes toward capital punishment. Young people historically have been more opposed to executions than their elders. And, Ellsworth said, “When people are faced with a particular egregious case — such as Timothy McVeigh, the World Trade Center bombing, this one — you find that they might be for the death penalty when they usually wouldn’t be.” In fact, much of the lingering support that there is nationally for capital punishment appears to exist “only because of cases like Tsarnaev’s,” Ellsworth added.
Read the full article "In matters of justice, it's personal" at the Boston Globe.