Faculty Notes

Prof. Eric M. Freedman Quoted by News Media on Possible Appeal by Tsarnaev

Eric M. Freedman, Siggi B. Wilzig Distinguished Professor of Constitutional Rights

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Given Death Penalty in Boston Marathon Bombing
By Katharine Q. Seelye
The New York Times
May 15, 2015


Some legal experts said that the jury’s 14 hours of deliberations seemed relatively quick in a case this complex. Eric M. Freedman, a death penalty specialist at Hofstra University Law School, said that the relative speed of the verdict could provide the defense with two possible grounds for appeal: “the failure to grant a change of venue, despite the overwhelming evidence the defense presented about community attitudes in Boston,” he said, and “the failure to instruct the jury that if a single juror refused to vote for death, the result would be a life sentence.”

“Unfortunately for all concerned,” Mr. Freedman said, “this is only the first step on a long road.”

Alexandra Odynova and Andrew Roth contributed reporting from Moscow.

A version of this article appears in print on May 16, 2015, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Tsarnaev Given Death Sentence in Boston Attack.

Read the full New York Times article.

Tsarnaev’s Death Sentence: What Happens Next
By Ashby Jones
The Wall Street Journal Law Blog
May 15, 2015


In these appeals, Mr. Tsarnaev is limited to raising issues that he either raised during pre-trial hearings or during the trial itself, like rulings on evidence and jury instructions.

He’s likely to raise a host of arguments, according to Eric M. Freedman, a law professor at Hofstra University and expert on the death penalty. One possible argument, according to Mr. Freedman: that the judge erred in allowing the trial to go forward in Boston, where the jury pool may have been tainted by bias. Another, according to Mr. Freedman: that in his instructions, the judge wrongly failed to tell the jury what happens in the event that they were unable to reach a unanimous verdict on Mr. Tsarnaev’s sentence.

Read the full Wall Street Journal article.

BBC World Service Weekend
May 16, 2015

Listen to the BBC World Service report. (The report with Professor Freedman begins 2 minutes, 50 seconds into the program.)

Law experts divided on Tsarnaev appeal odds
By Owen Boss
Boston Herald
May 17, 2015


“There are 61 people currently on death row and they haven’t executed anyone since 2003, nor could they even if today all the appeals are done because they have no valid method in place of doing it,” said Eric M. Freedman, a death penalty specialist at Hofstra University Law School. “Under normal reasonable assumptions, when it comes to Tsarnaev’s execution, you’re talking decades down the line — if ever.”

Among the most compelling arguments Tsarnaev’s attorneys still have, Freedman said, are their assertions that it was impossible to find a truly impartial jury in Boston and that jurors were not explicitly told that one dissenting vote would result in a life sentence, a common request that Judge George A. O’Toole Jr. declined to allow.

“When the defense put in the request, they enclosed a list of 71 cases in which that instruction had been given — including the last two federal death penalty prosecutions in Massachusetts, Gilbert and Sampson — but it was refused,” Freedman said. “That will certainly be an important point for the appeal.”

Read the full Boston Herald article.