Death penalty at stake as SCOTUS to hear Boston Marathon bomber case

Eight years after he took part in a terror attack at the Boston Marathon that killed three people and injured more than 260, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s final fate could be decided by the Supreme Court.

The question isn’t whether or not Tsarnaev took part in the bombing. He has already been convicted of murder, among a host of other charges. The question is what his sentence will be: life behind bars or execution.

This week, Biden administration attorneys will argue before the Supreme Court, attempting to persuade the justices that the death penalty for Tsarnaev should be reinstated “by arguing that a jury had no need to examine evidence that the government itself relied on at an earlier phase of the case,” according to The Associated Press.

Like the Trump administration before it, the Biden administration thinks Tsarnaev ought to receive the death sentence. Unlike his predecessor, though, President Joe Biden has generally expressed opposition to the federal death penalty.

The AP went into more detail about the legal issue at hand:

“[T]he main focus will be on evidence that Tsarnaev’s lawyers wanted the jury to hear that supported their argument that his older brother, Tamerlan, was the mastermind of the attack and that the impressionable younger brother was somehow less responsible,” the outlet reported. “The evidence implicated Tamerlan Tsarnaev in a triple killing in the Boston suburb of Waltham on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“The federal appeals court in Boston ruled last year that the trial judge made a mistake in excluding the evidence and threw out Tsarnaev’s death sentence. There’s a second issue in the case: whether the trial judge did enough to question jurors about their exposure to extensive news coverage of the bombing,” it added.

“The Trump administration, which carried out 13 executions in its last six months, quickly appealed. When the new administration didn’t indicate any change of view, the court agreed to review the case.”

According to his defense team, evidence shows Tsarnaev’s older brother, who died in a firefight with police, radicalized him, making Dzhokhar Tsarnaev less responsible for what happened.

“The evidence thus made it vastly more likely that Dzhokhar acted under Tamerlan’s radicalizing influence and that Tamerlan led the bombings,” one of his attorneys, Ginger Anders, wrote in a Supreme Court filing.

The Biden administration disagrees.

Tsarnaev “made the choice to commit a terrorist attack against children and other innocent spectators at the marathon, and the jury held him accountable for that choice,” Solicitor General Brian Fletcher wrote.

Liz Norden, whose two sons both lost legs in the bombing, believes Tsarnaev should be executed.

“I know a lot of people didn’t him want to get the death penalty for their own reasons,” Norden has said, according to Reuters. “Everybody’s entitled to their own thing. But for me, I wanted it.”

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