Suffolk County

DOJ asks Supreme Court to reinstate marathon bomber’s death sentence

BOSTON — The Boston Marathon bomber could be facing the death penalty after all. In a stunning reversal on his stance, President Joe Biden’s administration urged the Supreme Court to reinstate capital punishment for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Last summer, the U.S. Court of Appeals vacated the death sentence for Tsarnaev. He is currently serving multiple life sentences, but the Department of Justice is going to the Supreme Court, asking to reinstate Tsarnaev’s death penalty.

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In a 48 page brief, the DOJ released a statement, saying:

“The jury carefully considered each of respondent’s crimes and determined that capital punishment was warranted for the horrors that he personally inflicted...That determination by 12 conscientious jurors deserves respect and reinstatement by this court.”

—  Department of Justice

Tsarnaev and his brother Tamerlan are responsible for setting off bombs at the Boston Marathon finish line in 2013 that killed three people and injured more than 260 others.

Last summer, the U.S. Court of Appeals threw out the death penalty. It claimed the trial court didn’t adequately take into account jury bias and also how much Tamerlan influenced his younger brother.

That fall, then President Trump appealed the decision to the Supreme Court. Even though Biden called for an end to capital punishment in his presidential campaign, he calls for the death penalty in this case.

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For many, it’s a surprise move. On the campaign trail, candidate Biden said he opposed the death penalty. But now, President Biden is signaling an exception for Tsarnaev.

There was speculation that President Biden’s anti-death penalty beliefs would mean the government would back off Tsarnaev’s death penalty and instead allow him to spend the rest of his life in federal prison. Instead, the opposite has happened.

“This certainly is not good news for Tsarnaev,” Boston attorney Peter Elikann said.

He believes, if the Supreme Court rules in the government’s favor, it could pave the way for Tsarnaev’s execution.

“Supposedly they’ve already come up with their strongest arguments. So if the Supreme Court shoots them down on these arguments, they’d have to come up with something new that nobody ever thought, which might not be their strongest argument,” Elikann added.

The Boston Marathon bombings killed three people at the finish line and maimed many others, including Marc Fucarile, who lost a leg.

“To allow a terrorist, a person who detonates bombs in our cities, we should send a clear message: that if you do this, you will be put to death. I think we need to stick by that, Fucarlile said.

It’s expected the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on Tsarnaev’s case in the fall.

When asked if President Biden has changed his stance on the death penalty, neither the White House nor the DOJ responded for comment.

If Tsarnaev’s death penalty is not reinstated, he will continue to serve life sentences in federal prison.

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