During oral arguments about whether the death penalty should be reinstated for Boston Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Justice Amy Coney Barrett asked a Biden administration lawyer about its motivations during a time when executions for federal crimes have been paused, Fox News reports.
“What’s the government’s end game here?” Barrett asked Justice Department lawyer Eric Feigin on Wednesday during oral arguments before the Supreme Court.
If the Biden administration is successful, she said, Tsarnaev would be “relegated to living under threat of a death sentence that the government doesn’t plan to carry out.”
But Feigin only argued that the administration wanted to honor the jury’s original decision, adding that the execution pause was immaterial to the matter. “The sound judgment of 12 of [Tsarnaev’s] peers… should be respected,” Feigin said.
Not the end game
Reinstating the death penalty would not be the end game, he added.
The original 2015 death penalty sentence by a district court was overturned on appeal on grounds that the jury was allegedly exposed to media about the case during the trial and deliberations, and that the court excluded mitigating evidence during Tsarnaev’s sentencing.
The convicted bomber’s lawyers had tried to say during sentencing that Tsarnaev’s older brother Tamerlan was domineering and that he wouldn’t have committed the bombing without Tamerlan’s influence. They wanted to use information about a 2011 jihad-related, triple-murder Tamerlan may have been involved with to make their argument that he was the leader, not Dzhokhar.
That information was excluded at the time because there was no proof that Tamerlan had committed the other crime, and it was considered weak information.
The execution pause was announced by Attorney General Merrick Garland in July, and fulfilled a Biden campaign promise, despite the fact that both Garland and Biden had supported the death penalty earlier in their careers.
At the time, there were 46 people on federal death row. Late in former President Donald Trump’s time in office, 13 federal inmates were executed.
Prior to those executions, there had been none for 17 years. Those who oppose the death penalty argue that it violates the Constitution by causing pain and suffering, in addition to fears that an innocent person may be executed by mistake.
Proponents say it deters violent crime and say that if pain and suffering occur, they are minor compared to the pain and suffering those who are executed have caused.