U.S. Supreme Court to weigh reinstating Boston marathon bomber’s death sentence

FILE PHOTO: Boston police officers patrol down Boylston Street near the scene of multiple explosions near the end of the Boston Marathon finish line in Boston, Massachusetts April 15, 2013. Two explosions hit the Boston Marathon as runners crossed the finish line on Monday, killing at least two people and injuring 23 on a day when tens of thousands of people pack the streets to watch one of the world's best known marathons. REUTERS/Scott Eisen

By Nate Raymond

(Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to consider the U.S. Justice Department’s bid to reinstate Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s death sentence for helping carry out the 2013 attack that killed three people and wounded more than 260 others.

The department’s appeal, filed before former President Donald Trump left office in January, challenged a lower court’s decision ordering a new trial over the sentence Tsarnaev should receive for the death penalty-eligible crimes for which he was convicted.

President Joe Biden’s administration has given no indication it plans to reverse the Trump administration’s approach to the case, as it has done in several other cases pending at the court.

The 27-year-old Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan, precipitated five days of panic in Boston when they detonated two homemade pressure cooker bombs at the marathon’s finish line on April 15, 2013, and then tried to flee the city. In the days that followed, they also killed a police officer. Tsarnaev’s brother died after a gunfight with police.

Jurors in 2015 found Tsarnaev guilty of all 30 counts he faced and later determined he deserved execution for a bomb he planted that killed Martin Richard, 8, and Chinese exchange student Lingzi Lu, 23. Restaurant manager Krystle Campbell, 29, was also killed.

The Boston-based 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the trial judge “fell short” in screening jurors for potential bias following pervasive news coverage of the bombings.

The Justice Department appealed that ruling, which ordered a new trial over the sentence to be given for the death penalty-eligible charges. The department argued that the appeals court adopted a standard that wrongly denied trial judges the “broad discretion” to manage juries provided for by Supreme Court precedents.

Prosecutors said that if the ruling stands, it would have to retry the death penalty phase of the case and “victims will have to once again take the stand to describe the horrors that respondent inflicted on them.”

The justices will hear oral arguments and issue a ruling in the court’s next term, which starts in October and ends in June 2022.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Additional reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)

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