Parents of 8-year-old Martin Richard, the youngest person killed during at the Boston Marathon bombing, published a letter in the Boston Globe calling for the government to drop its pursuit of the death penalty against convicted bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
Bill and Denise Richard — who have been fixtures in the courtroom throughout the trial — wrote that they believe a life sentence is the appropriate penalty and the death penalty would only lead to years of appeals, causing them to relive the horror.
But now that the tireless and committed prosecution team has ensured that justice will be served, we urge the Department of Justice to bring the case to a close. We are in favor of and would support the Department of Justice in taking the death penalty off the table in exchange for the defendant spending the rest of his life in prison without any possibility of release and waiving all of his rights to appeal.
We understand all too well the heinousness and brutality of the crimes committed. We were there. We lived it. The defendant murdered our 8-year-old son, maimed our 7-year-old daughter, and stole part of our soul. We know that the government has its reasons for seeking the death penalty, but the continued pursuit of that punishment could bring years of appeals and prolong reliving the most painful day of our lives. We hope our two remaining children do not have to grow up with the lingering, painful reminder of what the defendant took from them, which years of appeals would undoubtedly bring.
On April 8, Tsarnaev was convicted of all 30 charges against him, including 17 that carry the possibility of the death penalty. The sentencing phase of the trial is scheduled to begin next week. During the next phase, the government is slated to present its argument for why Tsarnaev's crimes deserve a death sentence. Among those aggravating factors is the fact that Tsarnaev placed his bomb at the feet of Richard and killed a defenseless child.
On day two of the trial, Bill Richard gave perhaps the most harrowing testimony the jury endured.
"When I saw Martin's condition I knew that he wasn't going to make it," Richard testified.
Speaking in a low and sad tone, Richard told the court, "We were unlucky that day."
Richard's 7-year-old daughter, Jane, had her foot blown off during the blast. His oldest son, Henry, was badly burned. And Richard and his wife, Denise, both sustained permanent damage to their hearing.
On the last day of the government's presentation during the guilt phase, the jury saw autopsy photos and the charred and tattered clothing of Martin Richard from the day of the bombing. Several jurors sobbed as Boston's Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Henry Nields testified that a 6-by-6-inch portion of Martin's torso was blown off, exposing organs and intestines.
After the letter was published in the Globe, U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Carmen Ortiz responded in a statement saying she could not comment on the specifics of the letter and that the views of all of the victims and survivors "is very important to me."
Other survivors from the bombing, however, have come out in favor of a death sentence for Tsarnaev. Following the conviction on April 8, Liz Norden, whose two sons lost legs at the bombing, told reporters that she is for the death penalty. "I want to see justice for my boys," Norden said.
Opening statements in the Tsarnaev trial are scheduled to begin on Tuesday, April 21, the day after the running of the 2015 Boston Marathon.