The United States Supreme Court on Friday reinstated the death penalty against Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, reversing a lower court decision to overturn the man’s death sentence.
The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2020 vacated Tsarnaev’s death sentence, citing a judge’s error. The nation’s highest court said Friday that the appellate court ruling was a mistake and that Tsarnaev would be put to death for placing twin bombs at the 2013 Boston Marathon with his brother.
In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court said that the appellate court was incorrectly ruling in overturning Tsarnaev’s death sentence based on issues with evidence and jury selection. The majority opinion, authored by Justice Clarence Thomas, came along ideological lines. The court’s liberal wing — Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented.
The Justice Department had urged the Supreme Court in October to reinstate the death penalty initially imposed on Tsarnaev, bringing a pivotal capital punishment case before the high court just three months after the Biden administration placed a moratorium on federal executions.
Defense attorneys argued that the U.S. District Court judge who presided over the trial mistakenly blocked evidence implicating Tsarnaev’s older brother in a 2011 Waltham triple murder said to have bolstered Tsarnaev’s resolve to commit violence at the 2013 marathon. The federal appeals court agreed, and also ruled last year that the lower court failed to ask prospective jurors questions about their exposure to news media coverage before the trial.
Eric J. Feigin, the deputy Solicitor General, said the government was asking the Supreme Court to respect “the sound judgment of 12 of the respondent’s peers” that execution was warranted for the “murdering and injuring” of “scores of innocents.”
On April 15, 2013, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev placed two homemade pressure cooker bombs at the marathon finish line. The explosives killed three people, including an 8-year-old boy, and injured hundreds others. After the brothers’ pictures were released by federal investigators, the brothers shot a Massachusetts Institute of Technology policeman, kidnapped a local resident in his car and had a shootout with police in Watertown.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed during the confrontation with police, while Dzhokhar escaped, leading to a multi-day manhunt that ended in his capture. A jury in Massachusetts federal court found him guilty on 30 charges.
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