On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to reinstate the death sentence for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the man convicted of killing three people and injuring more than 260 others in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.
The court ruled 6-3 in favor of re-sentencing Tsarnaev, 28, to death. Tsarnaev previously received the death penalty after being convicted of all 30 counts against him, including murder.
However, in July 2020, the First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Massachusetts vacated Tsarnaev’s death sentence and ordered the lower court to hold a new trial specifically regarding what sentences he should receive for the capital offenses he was convicted of.
The Trump administration appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court. The high court confirmed they would review the case in March 2021.
In July 2020, the First Circuit wrote that the judge who presided over Tsarnaev’s 2015 trial “did not meet the standard” of fairness.
Tsarnaev’s lawyers previously argued that extensive media coverage of the bombing made it impossible for their client to have a fair trial in Boston. They also referenced two jurors’ social media posts that suggested they had strong opinions about the 2013 terror attack.
Tsarnaev’s lawyers said the jury’s foreperson sent a dozen tweets after the bombing — including one in which he called Tsarnaev a “piece of garbage” following his capture.
The First Circuit court also ruled that the district court was wrong in excluding from the sentencing phase evidence that Tsarnaev’s brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was involved in an unrelated triple murder in 2011. In that case, Brendan Mess, Erik Weissman, and Raphael Teken were found dead in Mess’ Waltham apartment. All three were mutilated — nearly to the point of decapitation — and authorities said they likely knew their killer.
Two years after the slayings, on April 15, 2013, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, then 19, and his brother detonated two makeshift pressure cooker bombs at the marathon’s finish line, killing Martin Richard, 8, and Lingzi Lu, 23. A bomb placed by Tamerlan Tsarnaev killed Krystle Campbell, 29. The Boston Globe reported that 260 people were injured in the blast.
The Tsarnaev brothers stole a car after the bombing. Three days later, they fatally shot a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer Sean Collier, 27, while trying to steal his gun.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev died shortly thereafter in a gunfight with police. While Dzhokhar Tsarnaev escaped, a day later officers found him hiding on a boat in Watertown, just outside the police perimeter.
Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the trial court was not wrong for declining to ask jurors about their media consumption regarding the bombing. He noted that the trial judge was correct in finding the defense’s question about media consumption too broad.
Thomas also concluded that the trial judge was right in preventing the defense from presenting evidence relevant to the 2011 triple slaying involving Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s brother.
“Dzhokhar sought to divert the sentencing jury’s attention to a triple homicide that Tamerlan allegedly committed years prior, though there was no allegation that Dzhokhar had any role in that crime,” he wrote. “Nor was there any way to confirm or verify the relevant facts, since all of the parties involved were dead.”
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev remains incarcerated at a super-maximum security prison in Colorado.
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[Featured image: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev/FBI via AP]