Tensions and displeasure’s rise as trials continue to be delayed for alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokar Tsarnaev, and infamous 2012 gunmen, James Holmes, who has admitted responsibility for a shooting that resulted in many dead and wounded in Aurora Colorado during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises. Both of these incidents shocked the nation, and even now, years later, still conjure up senses of loss and tragedy, and the fact that neither Tsarnaev nor Holmes has made it to trial, and that both cases have been slow and costly, has led to many across the country being upset.
Tsarnaev currently is facing a 30 charge federal indictment, 17 of which are punishable by death. For this reason, federal prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. Unfortunately, this is leading to the extension of the trial process. According to The Huffington Post, studies have shown that cases wherein the death penalty is sought, are often around eight times as expensive as cases where the maximum penalty is life without parole.
Part of what makes a death penalty case so expensive to try is the jury selection process. Federal prosecutors find themselves mired in a complex situation in pursuing the death penalty, due to the fact that the death penalty has been abolished for state crimes in Massachusetts, and a large portion of area voters are staunchly against it.
This has led to a lengthy, and costly, jury selection process, as potential jurors are being removed on account of their moral objections to the trial. The process has been so slow, that it has pushed back the start date of the trial, which was tentatively scheduled to begin with opening statements on Jan. 26th.
In Colorado, the Holmes trial is about to begin, almost two and a half years after the tragic shooting. This process has also been slowed by prosecutors pursuing the death penalty, but that could have been avoided. On March 27th 2013 Holmes’s lawyers agreed to plead guilty to the shooting in order to avoid the death penalty. The following day prosecutors said that they were not ready to accept the plea, and the following Monday the prosecutors said that they would pursue the death penalty. Holmes then plead that he is not guilty by reason of insanity, which a judge has accepted. The trial is reported to be beginning shortly.
In both cases, pursuit of the death penalty has slowed the trial process down exponentially. In one case, a suspect even agreed to plead guilty, but the prosecutor’s wish to pursue death has led to the justice process being slowed. This has caused a great loss of wealth as the trial process has become time-consuming, and has become a huge burden. Furthermore, those who wish to see justice, and to gain closure in these events, must continue to wait and wonder.
A death penalty trial is also placing a huge burden on jurors. Because the stakes are so high, the trial itself takes much longer. In high profile cases, such as these two, jurors will be sequestered during a trial that may take longer than six months. Death penalty trials also place an emotional burden on all involved.
Cara Tangaro, Salt Lake City, Utah Criminal Defense Attorney