Supreme court Boston Bombing

October 12, 2021

Uncertain Fate

On the same week of the 125th running of the Boston Marathon, the Supreme Court takes up the case of a convicted terrorist at the center of an attack at the historic race.
Here's what to know and why it matters.

What's Happening:

  • 2015: a jury convicted and sentenced Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death for his role in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing – a terrorist attack he carried out with his brother.
  • 2020: a federal appeals court overturned his death sentence (not his conviction), ruling the trial judge wrongly decided to not allow certain evidence pertaining to Dzhokhar’s brother (and a separate crime), and did not properly screen the jury for bias.
  • The Supreme Court will decide whether to uphold the death penalty or life in prison.

The Two Sides

  • The defense argues the inability to present evidence about a separate crime allegedly involving the defendant’s brother (and accomplice) impacted the jury: “The evidence thus made it vastly more likely that Dzhokhar acted under Tamerlan’s radicalizing influence and that Tamerlan led the bombings.”
  • The federal government argues the convicted “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.”

Something To Consider:

  • Pres. Biden said he wants to end the death penalty, but the Justice Dept. under his administration has not attempted to take a different position on this case & has continued to argue for death, an appeal started under the Trump administration.
  • Pres. Trump resumed federal executions after a 17-year moratorium; in recent years, inmates remained on death row in perpetuity.
  • Reminder: While the federal government decides which cases to pursue, a jury (of one’s peers) decides one’s sentence.

In recent years, bipartisan support has grown for banning the death penalty for a variety of different reasons – from morality to practicality (the expense and challenge of executions).

Those involved in the bombing have mixed reactions. In recent years, the parents of a little boy murdered in the attack (by a bomb placed by the defendant) appealed to the govt. to drop the death penalty, arguing the endless appeals cause them and others to constantly relive the trauma and elevates the terrorist.

Marathon bomber faces revived death sentence in high court

Boston Marathon bombing victims split on death penalty in Supreme Court case

SmartHER Background on death penalty in America

by Jenna Lee,