Sparing us further talk of Tsarnaev

For the first time today, jurors will begin to hear a defense of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. It will not be a legal defense that tries to plant doubt about his guilt — that phase of the trial is over and its outcome was conceded in the jarring opening statement last month of defense attorney Judy Clarke: “It was him.”

The trial is now in its penalty phase, and the sole goal of Tsarnaev’s lawyers is to spare him a death sentence. Some relatives have arrived from Russia, presumably to aid in the defense case. The Tsarnaevs are not exactly a Chechen version of Ozzie & Harriet. But maybe that will be part of the defense argument — that the defendant’s acts grew out of a twisted upbringing.

The Globe reports that the defense team has been subtly working the jury from the start. One local defense attorney tells the paper it’s likely no accident that Tsarnaev has sat each day between his two female lawyers, with the male member of the defense team off to the side. The hoped-for effect on the jury, George Vien tells the paper: “They’ll see him as a young boy, and there’s a maternalism that they’re trying to project.”

All the defense needs to do is convince one of the 12 jurors that the best course would be to have Tsarnaev spend the rest of his life behind bars.

The defense begins its arguments today against what might be seen nationally as a rather surprising backdrop: New poll numbers that show continued opposition by Massachusetts residents to executing Tsarnaev. Just 19 percent of residents favor the death penalty for Tsarnaev in a new Globe poll. Support has apparently fallen from 33 percent in a September 2013 poll and 26 percent in a poll taken just after his conviction earlier this month, though the 19 percent figure may give a little too much weight to Boston, where opposition to the death penalty is strong.

Sunday’s Globe featured an inside look at the dystopian existence Tsarnaev would face with a life sentence at the Colorado “supermax” prison where he would likely be sent. A “high-tech version of hell” is how the story’s headline described the facility, quoting a one-time inmate on the effect of the prison schedule of 23 hours a day of solitary confinement.

Frank Perullo, the head of Sage Systems LLC, the Globe’s new pollster, said “it seems that voters have concluded that Tsarnaev does not deserve a quick death, but rather should spend the remainder of his days in a windowless cell contemplating the heinous acts that put him there.”

But who’s to say those voicing opposition to a death sentence hold the view that life in prison would be a way of exacting even more vengeance for Tsarnaev’s acts? Opposition to the death penalty has always run stronger in Massachusetts than the rest of the country. And some of those answering the new poll may also have been swayed by statements such as that issued by the family of Martin Richard, which simply call for a life sentence in order to bring a speedy end to the painful proceedings — including foreclosing the years of news coverage of appeals that would undoubtedly follow a death sentence.

While a life sentence will be framed as sparing Tsarnaev the death penalty, it would also spare all his surviving victims and the families of those killed years of mention of a name they wish desperately they had never heard.

–MICHAEL JONAS
BEACON HILL

The state’s rainy day fund is taking some hits even as Beacon Hill officials say they are leaving the money untouched. (CommonWealth)

The Lowell Sun, in an editorial, says Gov. Charlie Baker is moving in the right direction on energy policy.

Members of Baker’s special MBTA review commission are likely to face tough questioningtoday from the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation, whose co-chairmen have already expressed skepticism about some of the panel’s recommendations. (Boston Herald)

The “big three” on Beacon Hill are mostly getting along well — with the main friction not across party lines with the Republican governor but between the Democratic House Speaker and Senate president, whose war over legislative rules has as much to do with very different views of the role of their members. (Boston Globe)

A Boston Herald editorial praises the House budget for proposing a five-year moratorium on the anti-privatization Pacheco Law at the MBTA — and rips state Rep. Nick Collins and a group of fellow House members for their budget amendment that would preserve the status quo.

Rep. Ted Speliotis of Danvers files a budget amendment that would require the state to reimburse communities for lost hotel/motel excise taxes from housing homeless people in hotels. (Salem News)

Rep. Josh Cutler of Duxbury says it is time to close an offshore tax loophole. (CommonWealth)

Swampscott resident and Baker neighbor Richard Doucette is leading the state tourism office. (The Item)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

President Obama‘s modest commitment of federal aid for the state’s snow burdens is leaving municipal budgets strapped and even rippling its way into their credit ratings, reports the Globe.

Holbrook officials are looking into foreclosing on some 400 small parcels of land that were given away more than 50 years ago as a promotion by a clothing store but never formally registered by the recipients. (Patriot Ledger)

Outgoing Medford Mayor Michael McGlynn, the state’s longest serving mayor, talks about the changes he’s seen in his city as well as the relationship with the state through seven governors he’s had to deal with. (Keller@Large)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

The death toll from the weekend’s earthquake in Nepal has reached more than 3,400 and continues to climb as aftershock avalanches rattle the region. (New York Times) The local Nepali community gathers in Boston for a candlelight vigil; a Somerville couple traveling in Nepal whose fate had been unknown and prompted grave concerns is reportedly safe. (Boston Globe)

How the Freddie Gray protests and other demonstrations around the country signal new steps in dealing with police brutality. (Christian Science Monitor)

Herald columnist Kimberly Atkins says all eyes tomorrow will be on Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is seen as the crucial “swing vote,” as the US Supreme Court hears arguments on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans.

George W. Bush bashes President Obama on his handling of Mideast policy, particularly regarding Iran. (Bloomberg)

ELECTIONS

Anthony Soto, the Holyoke city councillor married to outgoing Fitchburg Mayor Lisa Wong, announces his run for the top slot currently held by Alex Morse. The formal declaration is scheduled for May 21. (Sentinel and Enterprise)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

A new study finds that recent law school graduates are struggling in the job market, with 20 percent working in jobs that don’t require a law degree and only 40 percent being hired by law firms. (New York Times)

The Chipolte restaurant chain becomes the first to ban the use of genetically modified ingredients in its restaurants. (New York Times)

EDUCATION

Two math professors at Worcester State University take Higher Education CommissionerRichard Freeland to task for lowering math standards. (CommonWealth)

Mandated crime statistics for college campuses lag by as much as two years, giving incoming students and parents an inaccurate picture of school safety. (The Enterprise)

A new report says minority girls in Massachusetts schools are getting short shrift when it comes to access to school athletics. (Boston Globe)

The New Republic has a thing for bracingly blunt headlines, and so it is with Bryan Williams’s essay, “Elite universities are turning our kids into corporate stooges.”

TRANSPORTATION

Countdown clocks debut on the MBTA’s Green Line. (WBUR)

In an overly rosy view of MBTA governance, The Washington Post compares regional management snafus at the capital’s transit agency to Gov. Charlie Baker’s attempt to take charge.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Environmental groups are urging the Baker administration to nix a deal with Simmons College that gives the school exclusive use during certain hours of a state-owned playing field in Brighton in exchange for more than $5 million in upgrades to the field. (Boston Globe)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

A jury awarded Rep. James Lyons and his family $4.8 million in a case of criminal harassment by neighbors of the Andover Republican. The neighbors earlier had been sentenced to jail. (Eagle-Tribune)

The murder trial of James Holmes, accused of killing 12 people and wounding 70 others with an assault rifle and a shotgun nearly three years ago during a midnight movie in Aurora, Colorado, begins this morning. (New York Times)

MEDIA

Spotlight movie brings the issue of credit to the fore. (CommonWealth)

A second Pulitzer Prize winner now works in media relations for Charleston County government. (Columbia Journalism Review)