Death sentence for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev overturned by appeals court

Cheryl Sanders
August 1, 2020

The U.S. Appeals Court has vacated the death sentence for convicted Boston Maraton bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, writing in a ruling Friday and citing a judge's error.

Convictions on three of the 18 counts Tsarnaev was convicted on have been overturned, and the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled to vacate his death sentence on five counts.

Tsarnaev was sentenced to death in 2015 for his part in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, which took the lives of at least three people and seriously injured hundreds more. A lawyer for Tsarnaev did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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

"But 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", the judges said.

A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said his office is reviewing the decision and will have more to say "in the coming days and weeks".

The appeals court ruling comes less than a month after the Supreme Court cleared the way for the Trump administration to push forward with its plans to resume federal executions after a almost 20-year pause. He's been serving his sentence in a high-security supermax prison in Colorado.

Tsarnaev's lawyers pushed several times to move the trial from Boston, arguing the intense media scrutiny and number of people touched by the bombings in the city would taint the jury pool. Tsarnaev's brother died later that night after a gunfight with police, which ended when Dzhokhar ran him over with a stolen auto. The manhunt for Dzhokhar continued in the Watertown area until a resident found him hiding in a boat on his property on April 19. Restaurant manager Krystle Campbell, 29, was also killed in the attack by a bomb placed by Tamerlan.

Thompson put it this way: "For one thing, learning that prospective jurors read, say, the Boston Globe daily and have seen a lot of coverage about the case is not the same as learning that they read Globe articles quoting civic leaders saying Dzhokhar should die - statements that could not constitutionally be admitted into evidence". On the day of Tsarnaev's sentencing, the juror changed her Facebook profile picture to an image that said "BOSTON STRONG", a rallying cry used in the wake of the bombing, the attorneys said.

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