The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on October 13 on the federal government’s bid to reinstate convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s death sentence.
The court is set to hear the government’s appeal of a lower court ruling overturning the sentence and requiring a new trial to determine whether he should get life in prison instead.
Tsarnaev, an ethnic Chechen born in Kyrgyzstan, and his brother carried out the bombings in 2013, one of the worst attacks in the United States since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Tsarnaev, who was 19 at the time, and his older brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev detonated two homemade pressure-cooker bombs at the marathon’s finish line. Three people were killed and hundreds of others were wounded.
A jury found Dzhokhar Tsarnaev guilty of all 30 counts against him and later determined he deserved to be executed.
But in July 2020 an appeals court ruled that the trial judge “fell short” in screening jurors for potential bias following news coverage of the bombing and ordered a new trial on the sentence, while leaving the conviction intact.
The appeals court accepted arguments that members of the jury had not been questioned enough on their exposure to news coverage of the bombing.
It also agreed that the jury had not been provided vital information that Tsarnaev had allegedly been influenced by his older brother.
The Justice Department launched its appeal of the ruling during then-President Donald Trump’s administration and continued it after President Joe Biden took office despite Biden’s opposition to the death penalty.
In a filing to the high court, the Justice Department argued that jurors are able to decide a case fairly even if exposed to publicity about it before the trial and it rejected the argument that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had been influenced by Tamerlan.
“The record definitively demonstrates that [Dzhokhar Tsarnaev] was eager to commit his crimes” and remained proud of his actions, the department said in a court filing.
Opposition to the death penalty has increased in the United States, according to polls, which also show a majority of Boston voters favor a life sentence for Tsarnaev.
Some opponents of the death penalty are concerned that the Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, could use the Tsarnaev case as a rationale for the execution of others.
Other people have stated that as long as the United States has a federal death penalty, surely the crimes that Tsarnaev committed warrant execution.
The Supreme Court is expected to announce its ruling by June 2022.
With reporting by Reuters and AFP