Court Battles

DOJ asks Supreme Court to reinstate death penalty for Boston Marathon bomber

Greg Nash

The Department of Justice (DOJ) asked the Supreme Court on Tuesday to reinstate the death penalty for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev after an appeals court overturned the sentence.

The Justice Department asserted that the federal appeals court made the incorrect call in abandoning a death sentence “in one of the most important terrorism prosecutions in our nation’s history,” according to the petition to the court obtained by Reuters

A 2015 court found Tsarnaev, now 27, guilty of 30 counts associated with the Boston Marathon bombings that killed three people and injured 260 others in 2013. 

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston ruled in July to uphold his conviction but struck down his death sentence and called for a new trial to determine the appropriate sentence. The appeals court said the lower court did not adequately vet jurors for bias about what they had read or seen about Tsarnaev’s case. 

The DOJ is fighting that decision, saying the court “denies district courts the broad discretion to manage juries” which it said previous cases in the Supreme Court allowed, Reuters reported. It also objected to repeating the trial because of the ruling. 

“The victims will have to once again take the stand to describe the horrors that respondent inflicted on them,” the petition read.

Attorney General William Barr signaled the DOJ would counter the appeals court in an interview with The Associated Press in August.

“We will do whatever’s necessary,” Barr said. “We will take it up to the Supreme Court and we will continue to pursue the death penalty.”

David Patton, an attorney for Tsarnaev, did not immediately return a request for comment. 

During the trial, Tsarnaev’s defense team argued that the then 19-year-old was radicalized by his older brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev who helped organize the attacks and was killed after a shootout with police in the following days.

The prosecutors say Dzhokhar Tsarnaev also wanted revenge on the U.S. for its wars in mainly Muslim countries. He was captured hiding in a boat, where he wrote “stop killing our innocent people and we will stop.”

President Trump has also expressed support for the death penalty for Tsarnaev, tweeting after the appeals court decision that the federal government “must seek the Death Penalty in a do-over of that chapter of the original trial.”

Tags Boston Boston Marathon Boston Marathon bombing Capital punishment death penalty death sentence Department of Justice DOJ Donald Trump Justice Department Massachusetts William Barr

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