Fox: Don’t Allow Tsarnaev Victims to Influence Death Penalty Decision


The preferences of victims should not guide either prosecutorial strategy or sentencing decisions in the case of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who is scheduled to appear in court today for arraignment, criminologist James Alan Fox of Northeastern University argues in a USA Today column. “Without diminishing our sympathy for those killed or maimed, it shouldn’t matter what the victims and their families desire for punishment,” Fox contends. Victims should be able to give evidence to courts about the impact of crimes, but only after the sentence if imposed, Fox says. He cites an experiment by Raymond Paternoster and Jerome Deise of the University of Maryland showing that jurors are significantly more likely choose the death penalty in a serious case after hearing victim statements. Having victims speak after the sentence is determined provides “equal treatment for the defendant can be preserved even while victims are given a voice,” Fox says.

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