Northampton attorneys David Hoose and Harry Miles react to Tsarnaev death sentence

Last modified: Tuesday, May 19, 2015

NORTHAMPTON — Attorney David Hoose, one of a few Massachusetts lawyers who have tried death penalty cases, said Friday he was disappointed not only by the verdict jurors delivered in the trial of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, but also with their quick deliberation.

“I really thought they would take much longer,” he said. “I think one could conclude that there was a pretty strong sentiment that death was the appropriate sentence right from the start.”

The jury delivered the sentence Friday afternoon after deliberating for 14 hours.

Hoose said it is clear that the jurors were affected by the hours of testimony from Tsarnaev’s victims, including those who lost limbs and children at the Boston Marathon bombing.

“It really sort of makes me look at victim-impact evidence and the role passion and emotion has in capital cases. Passion and emotion is not supposed to be part of criminal justice system,” he said.

Hoose and Northampton attorney Harry Miles defended Kristen Gilbert, the former nurse convicted in 1998 of murder for killing four patients at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Leeds. The jury in that case decided against the death penalty, and sentenced Gilbert instead to life in prison without possibility of parole.

In an interview Wednesday, Hoose predicted that at least one or two jurors would hold out, preventing the unanimous vote necessary to sentence Tsarnaev to die.

He cited a recent Boston Globe poll that found two out of three people polled in Boston were against the death penalty and opposed sentencing Tsarnaev to die. But in order to be eligible to serve on the jury, Hoose said potential jurors had to swear that they were not opposed to capital punishment.

“You have 12 people who do favor” the death penalty, Hoose said of the jury’s decision, explaining, “either because it was warranted by the evidence, or the jury does not effectively represent Massachusetts.”

Jurors in a capital murder case have to fill out a questionnaire showing the judge how they feel about the facts of the case and any mitigating or aggravating factors. The jurors only have to be unanimous on whether the crimes warrant death, but their votes on the mitigating and aggravating factors show whether they believed various things the defense or prosecution tried to prove.

Hoose said he was surprised to see that only three jurors found that Tsarnaev’s older brother’s influence was a mitigating factor.

“That was the most disappointing part for me because I thought the defense had presented a very compelling case that he was controlled by his brother,” Hoose said. He went on to describe Tamerlan Tsarnaev as violent, radicalized and possibly mentally ill.

Hoose said he was not surprised to see that only two jurors believed Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was remorseful.

Reporters in the courtroom reported that a few jurors wiped away tears as the sentence was read. “In a case that’s gone on for so long, there is just a sense of mental exhaustion probably combined with the thought that they played a role in someone’s death. Each of those jurors has to live with that,” Hoose said.

Miles seconded the sentiment. “I don’t know if the government will provide them with any therapeutic services, but the government should,” he said.

“It always saddens me when the death penalty is imposed,” Miles said. “But if you’re going to talk about a poster boy for the death penalty, he definitely fit that category.”

Rebecca Everett can be reached at


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