US Appeals Court overturns Boston Marathon killer Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's death sentence

Clay Curtis
August 1, 2020

The death penalty sentence for the convicted Boston Marathon bomber has been overturned by a federal appeals court.

Lawyers for Tsarnaev have acknowledged that he and his older brother Tamerlan, who was killed during the manhunt that followed the 2013 bombing, detonated two homemade pressure cooker bombs that killed three people and wounded at least 260 others near the finish line of the annual foot race. The bombing killed three people and injured more than 260 others-becoming one of the highest-profile attacks in the United States since September 11, 2001.

A Boston jury convicted Tsarnaev on all 30 charges he faced in 2015, including conspiracy and use of a weapon of mass destruction.

The court also ruled on Friday that Tsarnaev should be given a new penalty phase trial.

This undated file photo released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on April 19, 2013, shows Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Tsarnaev's lawyers say one of the jurors, who would go one to become the jury's foreperson, or chief spokesperson, published two dozen tweets in the wake of the bombings. Many of her posts showed "a community allegiance that is certain to color her view of the case", Dzhokhar's lawyers said.

One post after Tsarnaev's capture called him a 'piece of garbage'.

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The judges said O'Toole deemed jurors who had already formed the opinion that Tsarnaev was guilty qualified "because they answered "yes" to the question whether they could decide this high-profile case based on the evidence".

The judges noted that the Boston court has a longstanding rule obligating such an inquiry.

"A core promise of our criminal-justice system is that even the very worst among us deserves to be fairly tried and lawfully punished", the judges wrote (pdf).

U.S. Circuit Judge O. Rogeriee Thompson wrote in the 182-page ruling that the trial judge "fell short" of eliminating biased jurors during the jury selection process. The attack initiated a manhunt in Boston that ended for Tamerlan three days later after the brothers fatally shot MIT police officer Sean Collier and hijacked a auto.

An entry submitted in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit read, "Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's convictions on Counts 13, 15, and 18 are reversed, and the district court is directed to enter a judgment of acquittal on those counts".

"I see in Boston, where you have the animal that killed so many people during the Boston Marathon, they just sent his conviction for the death penalty back to the lower courts".

Durkin Richer reported from West Harwich, Massachusetts.

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