Death Penalty

DOJ seeks reinstatement of death penalty for Boston Marathon bomber

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AP Photo Boston bombers brothers

Tamerlan Tsarnaev (left) and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are brothers who planted bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. Photo from the Associated Press/The Lowell Sun and the FBI.

The U.S. Department of Justice is backing reinstatement of the death sentence for the Boston Marathon bomber in a brief filed Monday with the U.S. Supreme Court.

The brief described Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as a “radical jihadist bent on killing Americans” and said the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at Boston had wrongly vacated the capital sentence and remanded for a new sentencing hearing.

How Appealing links to coverage, including stories by the Associated Press, the Hill and Fox News.

The DOJ brief is at odds with President Joe Biden’s views on the death penalty.

White House spokesperson Andrew Bates told the AP and Fox News that Biden thinks the DOJ “should return to its prior practice and not carry out executions.” But the department “has independence regarding such decisions,” Bates said.

The Obama administration had initially sought the death penalty for Tsarnaev.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case in March to consider two issues. The first issue is whether the 1st Circuit erred when it ruled that the trial judge did not adequately screen jurors to identify the media coverage that they had seen about the case.

The DOJ said the jury selection process was “meticulous” and “carefully calibrated to identify juror bias.”

The second issue is whether the trial judge erred by excluding evidence during the trial’s penalty phase that Tsarnaev’s older brother was allegedly involved in a prior triple murder, offered to show that Tsarnaev was less culpable in the Boston Marathon bombing.

The 1st Circuit said the trial judge’s exclusion of the evidence was an abuse of discretion. The DOJ disagreed, saying the trial judge correctly determined that the evidence had “minimal probative value” that was “outweighed by the danger of confusing or distracting the jury.”

The older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, died after Dzhokhar Tsarnaev ran over him in an SUV during a police shootout a few days after the April 2013 bombing, which killed three people and wounded more than 260 others. A police officer also died amid the gunfire while trying to capture the brothers.

The DOJ brief concluded that the Supreme Court should reverse the 1st Circuit’s decision “and put this case back on track toward a just conclusion.”

Related article:

ABA Journal (2013): Judy Clarke has a knack for keeping her notorious clients off death row

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