Seven out of ten Americans support the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev if he's found guilty of using a weapon of mass destruction during the Boston marathon bombings. There are some reports, however, that the trial may never reach the capital punishment phase.
The strong support for executing Tsarnaev comes from a Washington Post/ABC News poll released this morning. A majority of Americans support the move regardless of political ideology, though conservatives are far more likely to strongly support the idea.
As the Post notes, the group least likely to support the death penalty for Tsarnaev are African-Americans polled — but a bare majority still supports the punishment.
Interestingly, this is the same percentage of Americans that supported the death penalty for Osama bin Laden, according to a December 2001 poll conducted by Gallup. The Post/ABC figure of 70 percent figure is also slightly higher than a Rasmussen poll taken last week. In that poll, support was at only 61 percent.
Earlier this week, Tsarnaev's defense team added Judy Clarke, a lawyer with a long track record of negotiating to save her clients' lives. According to CNN, such negotiations are already underway in this case.
Some very preliminary talks have been under way "for the past few days" to potentially allow Boston bomb suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to resume providing investigators with information about the attacks in exchange for having the death penalty taken off the table, two government sources say.
The discussions between prosecution and defense attorneys are at a "preliminary, delicate stage" and both refused to offer details of what either side would be willing to leverage, according to the sources.
Despite CNN citing "two government sources," the Justice Department denies any negotiations, offering "no comment at this time" on potential penalty. The government has not yet asked for the death penalty — or any specific penalty, for that matter.
Americans seem very willing to have Tsarnaev treated as a criminal, not as some exceptional circumstance warranting extreme measures. The Post/ABC poll also suggests that America is satisfied with how the prosecution of Tsarnaev has proceeded. An even larger percentage supports trying the terror suspect in federal court, as opposed to using a military tribunal. Since Tsarnaev is a citizen, a tribunal wasn't a legal option, despite calls from Sen. Lindsey Graham that he be tried in that way. Even conservatives strongly disagreed with that idea.
The extent to which Tsarnaev's status as a citizen plays a role in this attitude is unclear. But, just to complicate things a little, it's worth noting another question Gallup asked on that poll in 2001. Only 20 percent of Americans supported the death penalty for another person in the news: John Walker Lindh, the American man who joined the Taliban.