By DENISE LAVOIE
BOSTON (AP) — After a federal jury gave Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev the death penalty for his crimes, survivors of the 2013 attack expressed relief that at least the four-month trial was over.
“We can breathe again,” said one survivor.
But a state prosecutor’s insistence that Tsarnaev should stand trial a second time has triggered an indignant backlash from those who insist it would re-traumatize victims and amount to a waste of taxpayer money.
“I understand intellectually — provincially — sticking up for your community,” said Suffolk University law professor Christopher Dearborn. “But I have a hard time not coming down on the side that it is a monumental waste of resources.”
Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan said she believes it’s important to prosecute Tsarnaev in state court for crimes committed in Middlesex County, including the killing of MIT police Officer Sean Collier, the carjacking of a Cambridge man and a gun battle with police in Watertown as Tsarnaev and his brother tried to escape days after the marathon bombings.
“When you come into Middlesex County and execute a police officer in the performance of his duties and assault other officers attempting to effect his capture, it is appropriate you should come back to Middlesex County to stand trial for that offense,” Ryan said in a statement.
Tsarnaev has already been convicted on federal charges in Collier’s shooting, but that does not prevent him from being tried on state charges. And the reaction to her decision may help explain why multiple trials are so rare.
“He is guilty, and is never going to be exonerated. The absolute best he can ever hope for is life in prison. There is nothing to be gained from another conviction,” wrote Adrian Walker, a columnist for The Boston Globe, after Ryan recently reiterated her intention to put Tsarnaev on trial.
Her decision stands in contrast to the approach by Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley, who said early on that he would let the federal government prosecute Tsarnaev for the marathon bombing — committed in his jurisdiction.
Conley cited the laws available at the state and federal level, as well as a desire to shorten a grueling process for victims, their families and the city.
The death penalty was available for Tsarnaev’s crimes under federal law, but not under state law. Massachusetts abolished the death penalty in 1984.
Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said he cannot recall another case in which someone on federal death row was then tried on state charges.
John Allen Muhammad, known as the “D.C. Sniper” for a three-week killing spree in 2002 that left 10 dead, was sentenced to death on state charges in Virginia. Prosecutors went ahead and tried him on state charges in Maryland, but for separate killings in that state.
Ryan did not respond to multiple requests seeking comment.
Ryan has faced criticism since she was appointed in 2013, particularly for her office’s handling of the prosecution of Jared Remy, the son of Red Sox broadcaster Jerry Remy, who was arrested for assaulting his girlfriend but killed her two days later — after prosecutors did not seek bail or a hearing to determine whether he was too dangerous to be released.
Some legal experts say Ryan’s repeated pledges to prosecute Tsarnaev on state charges may be aimed at appearing tough on crime.
“The decision here to prosecute or not prosecute would seem to be more political than practical,” Dunham said.
“As a practical matter, he is already guaranteed to be punished more severely in the federal system than anything else that he could be sentenced to in the state system.”
After Tsarnaev was first indicted on state charges in June 2013, Collier’s father, Allen Collier, praised prosecutors.
“I can sense their commitment to prosecuting this individual for my son,” he told the Globe.
Collier’s family could not be reached for comment on Ryan’s recent remarks. Messages were left for Allen Collier, Sean Collier’s stepfather and sister.
Legal experts said Ryan could simply be trying to give Collier’s family a sense of justice by focusing more closely on his killing than prosecutors in the federal case did.
“Some people felt like Officer Collier’s death was overshadowed by the events of the marathon bombing,” said Daniel Medwed, a law professor at Northeastern University.
“There is something about vindicating the family by proceeding in the Middlesex County case, especially this idea of allowing the facts surrounding Officer Collier’s killing to be more fully developed than perhaps they were in the federal case,” he said.