Supreme Court to Consider Boston Marathon Bomber’s Death Sentence

It’s been eight years since the deadly Boston Marathon bombing by the brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnev which resulted in the deaths of several people and the maiming of nearly 300.

Tamerlan was killed by authorities after the bombing. Dzhokhar was captured, tried and convicted to life on prison. In the last days of the Trump Administration the DOJ asked that the Supreme Court review the sentence and rule that Dzhokhar Tamerlan deserves the death penalty.

The Supreme Court will hear the case in its term beginning next October.

Wall Street Journal 3.22.2021
WASHINGTON—The Supreme Court agreed to consider the Justice Department’s bid to reinstate a death sentence for convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

The court said Monday it would review an appeals court ruling from July that said the death sentence couldn’t stand because a trial judge hadn’t properly screened jurors about their exposure to pretrial publicity about the case.

Boston Marathon Bombing III 3.22.2021.jpg

The First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in its decision last summer, said the judge “qualified jurors who had already formed an opinion that Dzhokhar was guilty—and he did so in large part because they answered ‘yes’ to the question whether they could decide this high-profile case based on the evidence.”

The decision didn’t overturn Tsarnaev’s convictions; his lawyers at trial admitted his participation in the 2013 bombings. But the ruling, if it stands, means prosecutors would need to go through a new penalty-phase trial if they hope to have a death sentence reinstated.

Tsarnaev’s legal team said the lower court ruling was correct and asked the justices not to hear the case.

The Justice Department filed its high-court appeal in the final months of the Trump administration, calling the case “one of the most important terrorism prosecutions in our nation’s history” and urging the court to put it “back on track toward its just conclusion.”

The justices will hear the case during their next term, which begins in October.

Boston Marathon Bombing II 3.22.2021.jpg

Tsarnaev and his older brother Tamerlan planted pressure-cooker bombs at the marathon finish line in April 2013, killing three people and injuring more than 260, including 17 who lost limbs. They also shot and killed a campus police officer in Cambridge while trying to flee the region days later. Tamerlan was killed during a confrontation with police.

The decision didn’t overturn Tsarnaev’s convictions; his lawyers at trial admitted his participation in the 2013 bombings. But the ruling, if it stands, means prosecutors would need to go through a new penalty-phase trial if they hope to have a death sentence reinstated.

Tsarnaev’s legal team said the lower court ruling was correct and asked the justices not to hear the case.

Boston Marathon Bombing IV 3.22.2021.jpg

Brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Dzhokhar pictured in insert

President Biden opposes capital punishment, and during last year’s campaign said he would work to end the death penalty at both the federal and state levels. Although the Justice Department is seeking to reinstate the death penalty imposed on Tsarnaev, the legal issues in the case are of broader concern to prosecutors, such as the vetting judges must do to ensure jurors aren’t prejudiced because of pretrial publicity and the type of evidence defendants are entitled to introduce to mitigate their punishment.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Monday said Mr. Biden had expressed horror at Tsarnaev’s actions and concerns about the death penalty. She referred enquiries on the specific case to the Justice Department, which declined to comment. Tsaarnaev’s lawyer didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The Trump administration moved aggressively to implement the death penalty after a lengthy hiatus, and put 13 inmates to death in its final months. No federal executions currently are scheduled, and the Biden administration can achieve a moratorium either via a formal declaration or, unofficially, by not initiating the process to inflict the death penalty on some 50 federal inmates under such sentences.

To learn more about the brothers Tsarnaev and the Boston bombing I would reccommend the book “The Brothers” by Masha Gessen (2013). She explores in detail  the Tsarnaev’s family history, their immigration to America and the events which led them down the radicalism path which concluded horribly in Boston eight years ago. A link to a 2015 NPR interview with the author is attached.

https://www.npr.org/2015/04/07/398061941/tracing-the-roots-of-the-brothers-and-the-boston-marathon-bombing

Boston Marathon Bombing V 3.22.2021.jpg