Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is scheduled to appear in federal court today for his arraignment, and some victims and their families are expected to attend. When the 30-count indictment against him was announced last month, U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz indicated that the 19-year-old defendant, if convicted of murdering three spectators during the race and an MIT police officer days later, would face life in prison or the death penalty. Consistent with Justice Department procedure, Ortiz would consult with the victims’ families before making a recommendation of whether the federal government should seek to execute Tsarnaev.
Hopefully, this stage of the decision-making process is more about political correctness than public policy. It is certainly appropriate for the victims to be kept informed about important developments in the case. However, the preferences of victims should not guide either prosecutorial strategy or sentencing decisions.