Why 'Juror 83' has changed his mind about death penalty for Tsarnaev

Kevan Fagan is the first juror to speak publicly. The official list of jurors names remains sealed, pending the defense attorneys' motion for a new trial.

Michael Dwyer/AP
Protesters stand outside federal court in Boston where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was formally sentenced on June 24 for his role in the Boston Marathon bombing. A federal jury condemned Mr. Tsarnaev to die for the 2013 bombing.

Kevan Fagan, 'Juror 83' in the trial of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, says he probably would not have voted for the death penalty had he been aware that the families of some victims wanted a life sentence.

On Monday, the same day a federal judge ruled to keep the names of all jurors in the trial sealed, Mr. Fagan sat down for an interview with WBUR-FM.

Fagan is the first juror to speak publicly using his name, and to be photographed, according to the station.

Fagan would not discuss deliberations but said he "would probably change" his vote in the penalty phase of the trial if he had been aware that the parents of 8-year-old victim Martin Richard opposed the death penalty.

The week before the jury was set to deliberate on life imprisonment or death for Mr. Tsarnaev, nearly two years to the day of the bombing, Bill and Denise Richard wrote an essay, published in The Boston Globe, that a death sentence would only lead to lengthy appeals and draw out the anguish for their family:

We know that the government has its reasons for seeking the death penalty, but the continued pursuit of that punishment could bring years of appeals and prolong reliving the most painful day of our lives. We hope our two remaining children do not have to grow up with the lingering, painful reminder of what the defendant took from them, which years of appeals would undoubtedly bring.

The jurors were ordered to avoid social media and press throughout the trial.

“If I had known that, I probably – I probably would change my vote. But then again, if I knew that I wouldn’t be on the jury either,” Fagan said in the interview. 

He is co-authoring an e-book about his experience titled “Juror 83 – The Tsarnaev Trial: 34 Days That Changed Me” that is expected to be released at the end of September.

In the ruling on Monday, the judge said the list of jurors would remain under seal while the defense seeks a motion for a new trial. The judge stated that because the defense wants to examine social media activity of trial jurors, releasing the jurors’ names will enable reporters to interview the jurors and muddle the inquiry with “headlines and evening news.” Neither the defense nor the prosecution have opposed the release of the jurors’ names, according to WBUR.

Fagan said his mind often returns to the trial, and that he is seeking counseling to help process "what I heard, and what I saw" during the court proceedings. The trial is "something I'll never forget," Fagan said. "That's for sure."

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