Court overturns Boston Marathon bomber's death sentence

01.08.2020

A federal appeals court on Friday overturned Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's death sentence for helping carry out the 2013 attack, which killed three people and wounded more than 260 others.

Tsarnaev and his older brother set off a pair of homemade pressure-cooker bombs near the finish line of the world-renowned race, tearing through the packed crowd and causing many people to lose legs.

A three-judge panel of the 1st US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld much of Tsarnaev's conviction but ordered a new trial over what sentence Tsarnaev should receive for the death penalty-eligible crimes he was convicted of.

US Circuit Judge O. Rogeriee Thompson, writing for the court, said the trial judge "fell short" in conducting the jury selection process and screening jurors for potential bias following pre-trial publicity surrounding the high-profile case.

Thompson said the pervasive news coverage of the bombings and their aftermath featured "bone-chilling" photos and videos of Tsarnaev, now 27, and his brother carrying backpacks at the marathon and of those injured and killed near its finish line.

Thompson said the judge deemed jurors eligible who had "already formed an opinion that Dzhokhar was guilty – and he did so in large part because they answered 'yes' to the question whether they could decide this high-profile case based on the evidence."

Thompson stressed the ruling's limits. "Make no mistake: Dzhokhar will spend his remaining days locked up in prison, with the only matter remaining being whether he will die by execution," she said.

While all three judges agreed the death sentence should be overturned, US Circuit Judge Juan Torruella said he believed Tsarnaev was also denied the right to a fair trial when the judge declined to let the case be tried outside of Boston.

David Patton, Tsarnaev's lawyer, said prosecutors must now decide "whether to put the victims and Boston through a second trial, or to allow closure to this terrible tragedy by permitting a sentence of life without the possibility of release."

US Attorney Andrew Lelling's spokeswoman said his office is reviewing the decision. Prosecutors could ask the full appeals court to reconsider the ruling or appeal to the US Supreme Court. (Reuters)

More on this topic