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Top lawmakers oppose Tsarnaev’s execution

Senator Elizabeth Warren.
Senator Elizabeth Warren. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters/File)

US Senator Elizabeth Warren said Thursday she opposes the death penalty for convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

“You know, my heart goes out to the families here, but I don’t support the death penalty,” she said, speaking on “CBS This Morning.” “I think that he should spend his life in jail. No possibility of parole; he should die in prison.”

A death sentence, she suggested, would only keep Tsarnaev in the news, while a life in prison might push him out of the public consciousness.

“He’s not somebody who tries to then — or is able to — keep sucking up a lot of energy and a lot of attention,” Warren said. “The families need their chance to heal, to move on beyond this, and I think that’s what really matters most.”

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Much of the Massachusetts political establishment takes a similar view. US Senator Edward J. Markey, for instance, says Tsarnaev should not get the death penalty.

But there is some dissent.

“I am strongly opposed to the death penalty; however I do believe there is an exception for instances of terrorism,” said US Representative Niki Tsongas, a Lowell Democrat. “The heinous acts at the Boston Marathon certainly did rise to that level, and therefore I felt it was appropriate for the prosecution to seek the death penalty.”

A day earlier, Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican, reiterated his long-standing support for the death penalty in the Tsarnaev case, saying “obviously this is a decision that gets made by the jury.”

US Representative William R. Keating, a Bourne Democrat, was similarly deferential to the US jury that convicted Tsarnaev on 30 counts and now must decide whether to spare his life.

“I have personally opposed the death penalty throughout my career,” he said. “However, America is a rule of law country and as a former [district attorney], I believe it is up to the committed citizens of the jury to decide whether Tsarnaev should be sentenced to capital punishment under our laws.”

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Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh told WBZ-TV Wednesday night, “I’m going to leave that up to the jury. I don’t think it’s my place to give an opinion on that. I’ll side with what the jury does in this case.”

A WBUR poll of 504 Boston area residents last month found 49 percent believe Tsarnaev should be sentenced to life, while 38 percent say he should get the death penalty. Among a subset of 227 voters in Boston proper, the split was even wider, with 62 percent favoring life in prison and 27 percent preferring a death sentence.

US Representative Michael Capuano, a Somerville Democrat, said he opposes the death penalty. And he suggested a life sentence would be a worse punishment. “Imposing it won’t undo the death and destruction Tsarnaev caused two years ago,” he said. “The defendant has expressed a wish to die a martyr. I prefer that he have many years to reflect on his crimes.”

US Representative James P. McGovern, a Worcester Democrat, and Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III, a Brookline Democrat, both voiced opposition to the death penalty Thursday and said Tsarnaev should remain in jail for the rest of his life. Richard Neal, a Springfield Democrat, said he is opposed to the death penalty.

Representative Seth W. Moulton, a Salem Democrat opposed to the death penalty, said the Marathon bomber deserves a “severe sentence.” Representative Katherine Clark, a Melrose Democrat, said she remains opposed to the death penalty “even in this horrific case.”

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David Scharfenberg can be reached at david.scharfenberg@globe.com.Follow him on Twitter @dscharfGlobe.