Crime /

Supreme Court Reinstates Death Penalty for Boston Marathon Bomber

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was convicted of 27 crimes related to the bombing he conducted in April of 2013

Bostom Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will once again face the death penalty, following a ruling from the United States Supreme Court. 

The nation’s highest court moved on March 4 to reinstate the sentence following a 6-3 vote. The decision overturns a 2020 lower court ruling.

At that time, the court agreed that problems with jury selection and the exclusion of certain evidence during the penalty phase of Tsarnaev’s trial made it necessary to reject the capital sentence.

Tsarnaev was indicted by a federal grand jury for 30 crimes, including 17 capital offenses. He argues at this trial that his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was the dominating force that convinced his younger brother to take part in the bombing. He was ultimately found guilty of 27 crimes.

The dissenting opinion was filed by Justice Stephen Breyer and was joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Elena Kagan.

Justice Breyer upheld the ruling from the  First Circuit Court of Appeals. He argued that the District Court “abused its discretion” when it denied the admission of evidence linking the elder Tsarnaev brother to three, ideologically motivated murders in Waltham, Massachusetts. 

“For that reason, the District Court should conduct a new sentencing proceeding,” Breyer wrote.

He also stated, “I have written elsewhere about the problems inherent in a system that allows for the imposition of the death penalty.”

The majority opinion was delivered by Justice Clarence Thomas and was joined by Justice Samuel Alito, Justice Neil Gorsuch, Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Justice Amy Coney Barrett. 

“Dzhokhar Tsarnaev committed heinous crimes,” the opinion stated. “The Sixth Amendment nonetheless guaranteed him a fair trial before an impartial jury. He received one. The judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit is reversed.”

Justice Barret, joined by Justice Gorsuch, also offered a concurring opinion  to express her “skepticism that the courts of appeals possess such supervisory power in the first place” and contending that the First Circuit Court of Appeals “erred.”

On April 15, 2013, brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev detonated two homemade pressure-cooker bombs they had planted by the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Three people died as a result of the blast, which sent nails and other shrapnel into the assembled crowd. Hundreds were injured. 

A manhunt for the bombers ensued. Three days after the attack, Tamerlan killed a Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus police officer and stole a car from a graduate student. The brothers were pursued by police. Tamerlan died when Dzhokar ran him over while fleeing from law enforcement. According to reports and court documents, the brothers emigrated to the United States as children and became radical Islamist through their internet activity.

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