Supreme Court reimposes Boston Marathon bomber's death sentence

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
(Image credit: FBI via Getty Images)

The Supreme Court has reinstated the death sentence for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the man convicted in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

In a 6-3 decision released Friday, the Supreme Court reimposed Tsarnaev's death sentence, rejecting arguments that the judge in his trial should not have excluded evidence pertaining to a prior crime and that there wasn't sufficient questioning of jurors, NBC News reports.

The 1st Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Tsarnaev's death sentence in 2020, saying the district court "abused its discretion during jury selection by declining to ask every prospective juror what he learned from the media about the case," the Supreme Court's decision explains. The appeals court also said evidence that Tsarnaev's brother, Tamerlan, may have committed three murders in Waltham two years before the bombing should have been allowed to be introduced in the case by the defense.

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But Supreme Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that Tsarnaev did receive "a fair trial before an impartial jury." The Supreme Court's liberal justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor dissented.

"The reasons the District Court gave do not justify excluding the Waltham murder evidence, and it was an abuse of discretion to do so," Breyer wrote, adding this evidence "supported Dzhokhar's theory that Tamerlan's violent and radicalizing influence induced all of the actions Dzhokhar took in connection with the Boston Marathon bombings," so it "may have led some jurors to conclude that Tamerlan's influence was so pervasive that Dzhokhar did not deserve to die."

The Biden administration's Justice Department had urged the Supreme Court to uphold Tsarnaev's death sentence, despite Attorney General Merrick Garland's moratorium on federal executions.

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Brendan Morrow

Brendan is a staff writer at The Week. A graduate of Hofstra University with a degree in journalism, he also writes about horror films for Bloody Disgusting and has previously contributed to The Cheat Sheet, Heavy, WhatCulture, and more. He lives in New York City surrounded by Star Wars posters.