The US Supreme Court reinstated the death sentence of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was convicted of helping carry out the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, an attack that killed three people and left at least 260 others injured.
Tsarnaev is a Kyrgyz-American terrorist of Chechen descent who was convicted of perpetrating the Boston Marathon bombing by planting pressure-cooker bombs near the finish line of the race on April 15, 2013, along with his brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev
The Supreme Court reversed a decision by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit. In July 2020, the panel ruled that the death sentence should be overturned after Tsarnaev’s lawyers showed that the judge overseeing his 2015 trial did not adequately question potential jurors for bias in the case, which received massive publicity.
The vote was 6 to 3, with the court’s three liberal members in dissent.
Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the majority: “Dzhokhar Tsarnaev committed heinous crimes. The Sixth Amendment nonetheless guaranteed him a fair trial before an impartial jury. He received one.”
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s guilt was not at issue — the panel upheld his conviction on 27 charges, including crimes that resulted in the deaths of 8-year-old Martin Richard of Boston, a restaurant manager named Krystle Campbell, and a graduate student from China named Lingzi Lu.
The only question was whether he should be sentenced to life in prison or put to death.
In overturning Tsarnaev’s death sentence, the panel also said some evidence was improperly withheld that might have indicated his older brother, Tamerlan, was more culpable for the bombing. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed as police closed in on the brothers days after the April 2013 bombing.
The case created a dilemma for the Justice Department, which had asked the Supreme Court to reverse the appeals court decision even though President Biden has halted federal executions and opposes the death penalty.