Supreme Court reinstates death sentence for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

BOSTON — The US Supreme Court has reinstated the death sentence for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

The news was announced Friday morning in a 44 page ruling.

Judge Clarence Thomas wrote the majority opinion.

The justices, by a 6-3 vote Friday, agreed with the Biden administration’s arguments that a federal appeals court was wrong to throw out the sentence of death a jury imposed on Tsarnaev for his role in the bombing that killed three people near the finish line of the marathon in 2013.

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston ruled in 2020 that the trial judge improperly excluded evidence that could have shown Tsarnaev was deeply influenced by his older brother, Tamerlan, and was somehow less responsible for the carnage.

Judge Thomas wrote, “Dzhokhar Tsarnaev committed heinous crimes. The Sixth Amendment nonetheless guaranteed him a fair trial before an impartial jury. He received one. The judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit is reversed.”

“To prove Tamerlan’s domineering nature, Dzhokhar sought to introduce hearsay evidence of a crime Tamerlan allegedly had committed years earlier.” wrote Thomas

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote, “First, death penalty proceedings are special. Unlike evidentiary determinations made in other contexts, a trial court’s decision to admit or exclude evidence during a capital sentencing proceeding is made against the backdrop of a capital defendant’s constitutional right to argue against the death penalty.”

“The evidentiary showing Dzhokhar attempted to make here was not, as the majority asserts, any more complex or confusing than the evidentiary showing the Government makes in these situations,” wrote Breyer. “The fact that the evidence was about Tamerlan’s character instead of Dzhokhar’s did not render the evidence beyond the jury’s ability to comprehend.”

In a statement, Massachusetts US Attorney Rachael Rollins said “On April 15, 2013, Boston changed forever. Krystle Campbell, Lingzi Lu, Martin Richard, and Officer Sean Collier were murdered, while hundreds of other innocent victims were maimed and wounded. Over the course of four days, Boston and our surrounding towns and cities sheltered in fear and disbelief. Although the scar remains some nine years later, the resiliency of our city, the families of the victims, and the hundreds of brave survivors knows no bounds.”

“Today’s opinion by the Supreme Court reverses the decision vacating the death sentence imposed on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev following the jury’s verdict. There remain, however, other legal issues that must be addressed by various courts. Legal rulings don’t erase trauma and pain. Our focus today, and always, is on the hundreds of families that were deeply impacted and traumatized by this horrific act of domestic terrorism,” said Rollins.

Material from the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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