DOJ asks Supreme Court to revive Boston Marathon bomber death sentence
The Biden administration on Monday urged the Supreme Court to reinstate the death penalty against the Boston Marathon bomber in an apparent break with the president’s stated opposition to capital punishment.
In a 48-page brief, the Department of Justice (DOJ) asked the justices to reverse a Boston-based federal appeals court that vacated the death sentence for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the lone surviving perpetrator of the 2013 attack.
“The jury carefully considered each of respondent’s crimes and determined that capital punishment was warranted for the horrors that he personally inflicted — setting down a shrapnel bomb in a crowd and detonating it, killing a child and a promising young student, and consigning several others to a lifetime of unimaginable suffering,” the DOJ’s brief reads.
“That determination by 12 conscientious jurors deserves respect and reinstatement by this Court,” it adds.
Tsarnaev and his since-deceased brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, killed three people and injured 260 others in the 2013 bombing attack near the finish line of the annual event in downtown Boston.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit last year vacated Tsarnaev’s death sentence. The court ruled that the trial court had failed to adequately gauge potential jury bias and the extent to which Tsarnaev may have been influenced by his brother.
Former President Trump in October appealed that decision to the Supreme Court. The justices agreed in March to take up the dispute and are expected to hear arguments in the case next term.
The case was seen as an early challenge for Biden, the first U.S. president to publicly oppose the death penalty, and his administration’s response had been highly anticipated.
During the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden called for an end to capital punishment.
“Since 1973, over 160 individuals in this country have been sentenced to death and were later exonerated,” Biden wrote in a July 2019 tweet. “Because we can’t ensure that we get these cases right every time, we must eliminate the death penalty.”
But on Monday, the DOJ made clear that Biden would maintain his predecessor’s support for reinstating capital punishment against Tsarnaev.
“The court of appeals improperly vacated the capital sentences recommended by the jury in one of the most important terrorism prosecutions in our Nation’s history,” the DOJ’s brief reads. “This Court should reverse the decision below and put this case back on track toward a just conclusion.”
The White House and DOJ did not immediately respond when asked by The Hill if Biden had changed his stance on the death penalty.
Tsarnaev, 27, will serve out multiple life sentences in federal prison if his death sentence is not reinstated.