IT’S PROBABLY THE highest profile capital punishment case in the country. And while it was an administration in Washington led by a Democratic president opposed to the death penalty that successfully sought reinstatement of the death penalty against Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, support for capital punishment in the country is declining, with some hard-core Trump Republicans now part of the swing against state-sanctioned executions.
The Biden administration declared a moratorium on carrying out federal executions, while simultaneously pursuing reinstatement of the death penalty for Tsarnaev following an appeals court decision to overturn his sentence.
Following last week’s US Supreme Court ruling that reversed that decision, US Attorney Rachael Rollins, who says she is personally opposed to the death penalty, said she would move to pursue the death penalty against Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev if instructed to do so by her boss, Attorney General Merrick Garland.
Though Tsarnaev again could face execution, he has other avenues to appeal, and it is likely to be years before he could ever actually face capital punishment.
For Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby, that day can’t come soon enough. He makes that argument in today’s paper under a spare headline that cuts to the chase in conveying his view: “Execute Tsarnaev,” it reads. “If anyone merits the worst punishment in our legal system, Tsarnaev does,” Jacoby writes. “Indeed, for crimes like his, any lesser punishment would be a miscarriage of justice.”
Efforts to end the federal death penalty have so far stalled in Congress. But public support for the death penalty has undergone a significant change, with support going from a high of 80 percent in the mid-1990s (a time when urban gun violence was high) to 54 percent as of October 2021. While much of the decrease in support came from Democrats changing their views, a smaller part of the shift in views is the result of changing attitudes among Republicans.
Vox writer Marin Cogan explores how those changes are playing out in Ohio, where a bill to outlaw the death penalty has bipartisan sponsorship. Supporters say it will pass sometime in the next year or so. What’s surprising is not the liberal Democrats who support the bill, but the Republicans who do as well.
“I’m a true conservative, a Trump supporter all the way,” state Rep. Jeanne Schmidt tells Cogan. “And I have changed my mind on this.”
Schmidt is co-sponsor, with a Democratic colleague, of a bill to end the death penalty in Ohio.
A Catholic who is strongly opposed to abortion, Schmidt says she ultimately came to believe support for the death penalty was incompatible with her pro-life views. “For a long time it gnawed at me, being pro-life, that I was willing to let somebody be killed,” she said.
Last year, New Hampshire became the last New England state and 21st in the country to outlaw capital punishment, with a bipartisan coalition of legislators overriding a veto by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu. In 2020, Colorado also banned the death penalty with bipartisan backing for the move.
Another Republican cosponsor of the Ohio legislation, state Rep. Ron Ferguson, frames his view by highlighting the high cost of implementing the death penalty and as part of a general skepticism about government that he says conservatives should relate to. “I barely trust the government to deliver the mail, let alone make a decision on executing a human being,” Ferguson tells Cogan. “That seems to resonate quite a bit with everyone from progressives to staunch conservatives and everyone in between.”
No more pedaling: The state hands out $5 million for “equitable clean transportation projects,” and e-bikes get top priority, including a plan to use e-cargo bikes to make deliveries in Allston. Read more.
To-go cocktails: The House pares back a spending bill proposed by Gov. Charlie Baker and extends two COVID-era policies favored by restaurants – outdoor dining and to-go cocktails. Read more.
Not included: MBTA not among transit agencies splitting $2.2 billion in federal aid; the transit authority said it wasn’t eligible for the money because it was intended for agencies that borrowed money to maintain operations. Read more.
Overdue investment: With Massachusetts dead last among the 50 states in spending on parks and recreation, Mass Audubon President David O’Neill and Deb Markowitz of the Nature Conservancy say a big chunk of ARPA money needs to go for recreation and open space. Read more.
FROM AROUND THE WEB
While government is required to provide accommodations to deaf people who want to attend public meetings and events, in practice that does not always happen. For example, local officials may not know they have to provide an interpreter or may not be able to find one quickly. (The Herald News)
Protestors are unhappy that Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno appointed members of a new police oversight commission with no public input. (MassLive)
Baystate Health and Kindred Behavioral Health break ground on a new $72 million, 150-bed psychiatric hospital in Holyoke that they hope to open by August 2023. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)
Boston University researchers will aim to recruit thousands of people who played football or soccer, at every level from youth sports to professional leagues, for a study of the sports’ impact on cognitive decline and dementia. (Boston Herald)
Many Republicans in Washington have quickly pivoted from criticism of Ukraine and skepticism of any malevolent intentions by Russia to full-throated support for the besieged country and harsh denunciations of Russian president Vladimir Putin. “What was sort of a problematic, corrupt place is now the defender of freedom,” quipped Sen. Lindsey Graham, a long-time hawk, of his fellow Republicans’ sudden conversion. (New York Times)
The Florida state senate passes legislation barring teachers from having classroom instruction about sexual orientation or gender identity. Critics have dubbed the legislation the “Don’t say gay” bill. (NPR)
Former Somerset police chief George McNeil, a Democrat, enters the race to take on incumbent Republican Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson. He is the third Democrat running. (Herald News)
The massive redevelopment of the former Suffolk Downs racetrack is underway with construction starting on a 280,000-square-foot life sciences lab and biomanufacturing facility. (Boston Globe)
A Berkshire Eagle editorial urges UMass officials to scale back spending on sports coaches. The newspaper notes three of the 10 highest-paid state employees are coaches.
Jack Spillane explores the history of Native Americans on the South Coast in advance of an April 5 town-wide referendum in Dartmouth on whether to keep or get rid of the Indian logo used by the high school. (New Bedford Light)
Attorney General Maura Healey says her office is monitoring gas prices after receiving complaints of price gouging. (MassLive)