U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court will consider reinstating death sentence for Boston 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. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to consider whether a federal appeals court erred when it vacated the death penalty for convicted Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

The high court granted cert to consider two issues outlined in the government’s cert petition, posted on the SCOTUSblog case page here.

The first issue is whether the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at Boston 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 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 bombing.

Both brothers were accused of taking part in the bombing, which killed three people and wounded more than 260 others. The brothers were also accused of killing a police officer in the days after the bombing. 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.

The New York Times, CNN and USA Today have coverage of the cert grant.

Stephen Vladeck, a CNN Supreme Court analyst and a professor at the University of Texas School of Law, said there is no indication that the Biden Department of Justice is changing the position taken by the Trump administration.

“It may be that the legal issue, about just how carefully district courts in capital cases have to screen prospective jurors, is one that the current Justice Department wants the justices to clarify even if it has no intention of carrying out a potential death sentence down the road,” Vladeck told CNN.

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