Supreme Court to Reconsider Death Penalty for Marathon Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 22, 2021

FILE - This file photo released April 19, 2013, by the Federal Bureau of Investigation shows Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, convicted for carrying out the April 15, 2013, Boston Marathon bombing attack that killed three people and injured more than 260. The Supreme Court will consider reinstating the death sentence for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, presenting President Joe Biden with an early test of his opposition to capital punishment. The justices agreed Monday to hear an appeal filed by the Trump administration, which carried out executions of 13 federal inmates in its final six months in office. The case won’t be heard until the fall, and it’s unclear how the new administration will approach Tsarnaev’s case.  (FBI via AP, File)
Uncredited/Associated Press

The U.S. Supreme Court announced it's agreed to hear a case about whether convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should have his death penalty sentence reinstated.

Mark Sherman of the Associated Press reported Monday that Tsarnaev, who was found guilty in 2015 on all 30 charges brought against him related to the bombing at the 2013 Boston Marathon that killed three people and injured hundreds more, had the death penalty revoked by an appeals court in July.

Although the appeals court upheld most of the charges against Tsarnev, it ruled the judge in the original case "did not do enough to ensure the jury would not be biased against him" and removed the death sentence.

Even if the Supreme Court votes to reinstate capital punishment against Tsarnaev, who was a student at UMass Dartmouth at the time of the bombings, President Joe Biden would have to schedule execution since it's a federal charge. Biden has argued for an end to the death penalty, per Sherman.

In July, Judge O. Rogeriee Thompson wrote on behalf of the three-judge panel that their ruling didn't mean Tsarnaev had any chance of a return to freedom.

"But make no mistake: Dzhokhar will spend his remaining days locked up in prison, with the only matter remaining being whether he will die by execution," Thompson wrote.

One of Tsarnaev's lawyers, defense attorney Judy Clarke, didn't dispute the fact her client was involved in the attack during the 2015 trial—"It was him," she said during her opening statement—but instead argued he was influenced to commit the act of terror by his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

Tamerlan died in 2013 when he was wounded during a gunfight with police and was then run over by his brother in a getaway vehicle.

Clarke urged jurors to "choose life" during closing arguments of the trial's penalty phase rather than sentencing Tsarnaev to death.

"He was not the worst of the worst, and that's what the death penalty is reserved for," she said.

Tsarnaev was sentenced to death in May 2015 before the ruling was overturned on appeal last year.