A look back at the federal death penalty

22News looks at the numbers after Tsarnaev's verdict

Boston Bombing: Life Or Death?
Defense attorneys are expected to focus on the relationship between the Tsarnaev brothers in an effort to avoid the death penalty.

CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – The death penalty is just the jury’s recommendation, but if Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is sentenced to death, he’d join nearly 60 other inmates on federal death row.

According to the Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel, since the federal death penalty was reinstated in 1988, 498 defendants faced execution. However, more than half, 295 defendants, avoided a trial, and ultimately the death penalty, by negotiating a plea bargain.

In cases where juries actually reached the point of choosing between life or death, juries only recommended execution about 1/3 of the time, or 34%. That’s a total of 80 defendants.  More than half the time, 64%, jury’s chose life in prison, making that recommendation for 154 defendants.

So far, only three people have actually been executed for their crimes. According to the Bureau of Justice StatisticsIn both state and federal death penalty cases, the average time between sentencing and execution was 15 years in 2012. That’s compared to about six years in 1988.

Some prisoners have been on death row for well over 20 years.  The Death Penalty Information Center says during this time, they are generally isolated from other prisoners, excluded from prison educational and employment programs, and sharply restricted in terms of visitation and exercise, spending as much as 23 hours a day alone in their cells.

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