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

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Suspect 2 in the Boston Marathon bombing investigation. (FBI/Released)
October 09, 2020

The U.S. Department of Justice requested the U.S. Supreme Court hear the case of 2013 Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in an effort to pursue the death penalty.

“Given the profound stakes … the First Circuit should not have the last word,” Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall and other lawyers told the U.S. Supreme Court in a new filing obtained by American Military News this week. Wall added that the Supreme Court should “put this landmark case back on track toward its just conclusion.”

The federal lawyers also described the case as “one of the most important terrorism prosecutions in our nation’s history.”

In July, a three-judge panel on the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston had overturned Tsarnaev’s death penalty sentence over concerns of juror bias.

Tsarnaev’s lawyers had argued that intense media coverage harmed Tsarnaev’s right to a fair trial and that two jury members had shared derogatory views of Tsarnaev prior to the trial. One of those biased jury members even ended up as the foreperson during Tsarnaev’s trial.

During his initial trial, Tsarnaev’s legal team also requested a change of venue, arguing the jury pool in the area had been particularly heavily biased by the news event.

The April 15, 2013 attack on the Boston Marathon entailed two pressure cooker bombs exploding, killing three people injuring 260 more. Tsarnaev’s brother Tamerlan was also involved in the bomb plot, but was killed in a gun battle with police days after the bombing attack.

Tsarnaev was found guilty on 30 charges and sentenced to death in 2015.

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

If the Supreme Court does not take on the case, the prosecution will either have to accept Tsarnaev’s existing life in prison sentence, or pursue a new trial.

Defense attorney David Patton previously said prosecutors had to decide “whether to put the victims and Boston through a second trial, or to allow closure to this terrible tragedy by permitting a sentence of life without the possibility of release.”