The United States Supreme Court upheld the death sentence of convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev for his participation in the 2013 attack that killed three people and injured more than 260 others, deciding in favor of the federal government.
The justices concurred with the Justice Department’s challenge to a 2020 federal appeals court judgement that affirmed Tsarnaev’s conviction but reversed his death sentence in a 6-3 decision.
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The Supreme Court criticized the Boston-based 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for determining that Tsarnaev’s right to a fair trial under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution was violated, as well as that the trial judge incorrectly suppressed evidence regarding a different offense.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev committed atrocities.
Nonetheless, the Sixth Amendment granted him a fair trial before an unbiased jury. “He got one,” wrote the court’s conservative Justice Clarence Thomas.
The court’s six conservative justices voted in favor, with three liberals dissenting. As a candidate, President Joe Biden committed to work in Congress to remove the death penalty at the federal level and to provide incentives for states to do the same, instead advocating life sentences without the possibility of probation or parole.
However, his administration decided last year to pursue an appeal started by the Justice Department under his predecessor, Donald Trump, to defend Tsarnaev’s death sentence.
Justice Stephen Breyer concurred with the 1st Circuit that evidence from a third incident, a triple murder in Waltham, Massachusetts in 2011, related to Tsarnaev’s elder brother Tamerlan, was unjustly suppressed.
Tsarnaev’s lawyers contended that Tsarnaev, who is now 28 and was 19 at the time of the assault, had a secondary role in the marathon bombing to his brother. They contended that proof concerning another crime Tamerlan allegedly committed would be important.
“This evidence may have persuaded some jurors to infer that Tamerlan’s influence was so widespread that Dzhokhar did not deserve to die for any of the actions he performed in connection with the bombs,” Breyer wrote.
The Supreme Court also determined that U.S. District Judge George O’Toole, who presided over the trial, did not violate Tsarnaev’s right to a fair trial by failing to adequately screen jurors for potential bias in the aftermath of the bombings.
On April 15, 2013, the Tsarnaev brothers exploded two homemade pressure-cooker bombs near the marathon’s finish line, killing a police officer days later.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a shootout with police. In 2015, jurors found Dzhokhar Tsarnaev guilty on all 30 counts and sentenced him to death for planting a bomb that killed Martin Richard, 8, and Chinese exchange student Lingzi Lu, 23. The second bomb murdered 29-year-old restaurant manager Krystle Campbell.