Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's death sentence tossed out by appeals court

Yolanda Curtis
August 1, 2020

Tsarnaev's attorneys identified a slew of issues with his trial, but said in a brief filed with the court that the "first fundamental error" was the judge's refusal to move the case out of Boston.

Retired MBTA Transit police sergeant Dic Donohue, who was wounded during the Watertown shootout with Dzhokhar and brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev following the bombing, wrote on Twitter he wasn't surprised by the court's decision.

"A core promise of our criminal-justice system is that even the very worst among us deserves to be fairly tried and lawfully punished", wrote Judge O. Rogeriee Thompson in the 224-page opinion, noting the district court judge had failed to adequately vet the trial's jurors for bias. "Dzhokhar will spend his remaining days locked up in prison, with the only matter remaining being whether he will die by execution".

Attorneys for Tsarnaev, a U.S. citizen who came to the United States from the former Soviet Union as a child, have always claimed that his brother was more culpable of the two, saying Dzhokhar had no history of violence.

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

In 2013, Tsarnaev and his brother detonated a pair of homemade bombs at the marathon, killing three and wounding more than 200 others.

Tsarnaev carried out the bombing with his brother, Tamerlan, who was killed by police in the days after the April 15 attack. Dzhokar Tsarnaev is now behind bars at a high-security supermax prison in Florence, Colorado. The lawyers also argued that two jurors displayed strong opinions on social media over the event before the trial began in 2015. One of the posts called Tsarnaev a "piece of garbage".

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

Tsarnaev admitted at his sentencing that he was "guilty of this attack, along with my brother".

The higher court noted that the judge who presided over Tsarnaev's trial had rejected the defense team's request for a more distant trial venue where prospective jurors might be less likely to be prejudiced against the Chechen immigrant. The jury did not see it that way and sentenced him to death.

During a campaign speech on the Tampa International Airport tarmac in Florida Friday afternoon, Trump denounced the court's ruling. "So they'll argue about that for a long time".

"I am sorry for the lives I have taken, for the suffering that I have caused you, for the damage I have done, irreparable damage", said Tsarnaev.

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