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Dzhokhar Tsarnaev: Supreme Court Conservatives Seem Ready to Endorse Boston Marathon Bomber Death Sentence

Judges appeared to be divided along familiar ideological lines, however, as they reviewed a federal appeals court decision that clears the sentence citing errors made by the district court regarding the admissibility of evidence.

Tories on the bench suggested the evidence was unreliable and should not have been presented to the jury.

But the three liberal judges said it went to the heart of Tsarnaev’s argument: that he should not receive the death penalty because it was his brother who took the lead in carrying out the attack. bomb.

Tsarnaev was convicted in 2015 of the deaths of Krystle Campbell, Martin Richard and Lingzi Lu in the marathon and of Massachusetts Institute of Technology policeman Sean Collier several days later, among other charges. Hundreds of people were injured after Tsarnaev and his brother Tamerlan set off two bombs near the finish line, leaving the sidewalks littered with BBs, nails, pieces of metal and shards of glass.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev would later die in a shootout with the police. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is being held in Federal Prison in Florence, Colorado.

In July 2020, a federal appeals court ruled that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev would remain in prison for the rest of his life for “acts of unspeakable brutality” but that he should receive a new trial in the sanctioning phase, citing issues regarding jury selection and pre-trial publicity as well as the exclusion of evidence that might have helped his case.

The first US appeals court overturned the death penalty with orders to hold a new criminal trial, but warned: “make no mistake” – Tsarnaev “will spend his remaining days locked in jail “.

“A fundamental promise of our criminal justice system is that even the worst of us deserve to be tried fairly and legally punished,” the court said.

The Trump administration has asked the Supreme Court to step in and reinstate the original sentence, a demand that the Biden administration renewed, calling Tsarnaev a “radical jihadist bent on killing Americans” who had been convicted of “l one of the “worst acts of terrorism on US soil since September 11, 2001.”

Tsarnaev’s lawyer Ginger Anders told judges there was no doubt that the bombings were a “grave and shocking act of terrorism” but that the lower court had made two “serious mistakes” which compromised safeguards necessary to ensure that his client receives an appropriate sanction.

During the guilt phase of the trial, lawyers pointed out that Tsarnaev only participated under the influence of his brother. Anders also said the district court violated the Eighth Amendment and federal law by excluding evidence that she said showed Tamerlane Tsarnaev may have been linked to three murders as an act of jihad in 2011. She said said the evidence could have been used to further make the case that it was Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and not his brother, who had taken the lead in the bombing and that he had an unusual influence over his client.

“This is precisely the kind of evidence that a death sentence jury must consider if it is to fulfill its constitutional responsibility to give a reasoned moral response to the accused and his crime,” Anders wrote.

She also took issue with the district court’s refusal to ask prospective jurors a question that is normally asked in high-profile cases: “what they remembered hearing about the case.”

“The court’s refusal to obtain basic information essential to assessing jurors’ allegations of impartiality left jurors to be the judges of their own suitability to serve,” Anders argued.

It is not known whether, even if Tsarnaev’s death penalty is reinstated, whether he will actually be put to death, given the Biden administration’s opposition to the federal death penalty.

The Biden administration’s Justice Ministry said that although Tsarnaev’s lawyers had sought to force the discovery of the 2011 murders, they remained “unsolved” and the lower court judge said there were was insufficient evidence to describe Tamerlane Tsarnaev’s true role in the jury crime.

Regarding the jury pool, the Justice Department told judges that the court convened an expanded pool, which it reviewed with a lengthy questionnaire that included several questions about pre-trial publicity. “

“This tribunal should overturn the decision below and put this case back on track to a just conclusion,” Acting Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar told the tribunal.

She said “pre-trial publicity – even pervasive and unfavorable – does not inevitably lead to an unfair trial.”

Prelogar said the district court conducted an extensive selection process for potential jurors that took “21 court days and nearly 4,000 pages of transcript.”

Over the years, survivors and family members have been divided over whether Tsarnaev should be sentenced to death. In 2015, Bill and Denise Richard wrote an op-ed for the Boston Globe after losing their 8-year-old son, Martin. “We know the government has its reasons for calling for the death penalty, but the continuation of this penalty could lead to years of appeals and prolong reliving the most painful day of our lives,” the Richards wrote.

Jennifer Kauffman said she was watching the race when the first bomb went off and she suffered hearing loss, cardiac arrhythmia, internal bruising and swelling. She said she was opposed to another penalty phase taking place.

“I know there are people who disagree with me and that’s okay,” she told The Globe. “I believe we all have the right to speak out, to share our voices, and we each have the freedom to speak our truths even if we don’t agree. I just hope we can do it in a place of compassion, kindness and respect for one another. “

In a statement to CNN, Mikey Borgard, another survivor, said he believed the lower court was correct to overturn the death penalty. “He identified serious issues with jury selection and the exclusion of critical mitigating evidence,” he said.

He also called the death penalty “barbaric”. “I can’t stand the thought of human life extinct in my place,” he said.

But Helen Zhao, victim Lingzi Lu’s aunt, said the court “shouldn’t have overturned the verdict.” She said she hopes “the next one will come to the same verdict” because “if we give up we will basically lose to him.”

This story was updated with oral court arguments on Wednesday.