Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had his death sentence overturned on Friday by a federal appeals court. A new trial will be set to determine what sentence he should receive for the death penalty-eligible crimes he was convicted of
Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has had his death sentence overturned by a federal appeals court after his lawyers successfully argued some jurors had already decided he was guilty before his trial had even started.
The three-judge panel of the 1st US Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston issued the decision on Friday more than six months after arguments were heard in the case.
Tsarnaev, who was 19 at the time, and his older brother Tamerlan set off a pair of homemade pressure-cooker bombs near the Boston Marathon finish line in 2013 in an attack that killed three people and injured more than 260 others.
A federal jury in 2015 found Tsarnaev guilty of all 30 counts he faced and later determined he deserved execution for a bomb he planted that killed two of the victims.
He has been serving his sentence in the high-security supermax prison in Colorado.
The appeals judges upheld much of Tsarnaev’s conviction, but they ordered a lower-court judge to hold a new trial strictly over what sentence he should receive for the death penalty-eligible crimes he was convicted of.
US Circuit Judge O. Rogeriee Thompson, writing for the court, said that the trial judge ‘fell short’ in conducting the jury selection process and ensuring it could identify partial jurors exposed to pretrial publicity surrounding the high-profile case.
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 and his older brother Tamerlan set off a pair of homemade pressure-cooker bombs near the Boston Marathon finish line in 2013 in an attack that killed three people and injured more than 260 others
The bombs tore through the packed crowd and caused many people to lose legs. Three people died in the bombings
She said the trial judge allowed his jury to include jurors who had ‘already formed an opinion that Dzhokhar was guilty – and he did so in large part because they answered ‘yes’ to the question whether they could decide this high-profile case based on the evidence’.
Tsarnaev’s lawyers have long argued that intense media coverage of the bombing had made it impossible to have a fair trial in Boston.
They pointed to social media posts from two jurors suggesting they harbored strong opinions even before the 2015 trial started. The appeals judges, in a hearing on the case in early December, devoted a significant number of questions to the juror bias argument.
They asked why the two jurors had not been dismissed, or at least why the trial judge had not asked them follow-up questions after the posts came to light on the eve of the trial.
The judges noted that the Boston court has a longstanding rule obligating such an inquiry.
Tsarnaev’s lawyers say one of the jurors, who would go one to become the jury’s foreperson, or chief spokesperson, published two dozen tweets in the wake of the bombings.
One post after Tsarnaev’s capture called him a ‘piece of garbage’.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26 (left) and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, (right) sparked five days of panic in Boston on April 15, 2013, when they detonated two homemade pressure cooker bombs at the marathon’s finish line and then went into hiding
Tsarnaev was found hiding in a dry-docked boat in the backyard of a home following a five day manhunt
Tsarnaev and his older brother Tamerlan sparked five days of panic in Boston when they detonated the two homemade pressure cooker bombs at the marathon’s finish line and then went into hiding.
Three nights later, as they attempted to flee the city, they sparked a new round of terror in Boston when they hijacked a car and then shot dead Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer Sean Collier.
Tsarnaev’s brother died later that night after a gunfight with police, which ended when Dzhokhar ran him over with a stolen car.
Police then locked down Boston and most surrounding communities for almost 24 hours as heavily armed officers conducted house-to-house searches through the suburb of Watertown.
The surviving brother was found hiding in a dry-docked boat in a backyard.
Tsarnaev was convicted on 30 charges, including conspiracy and use of a weapon of mass destruction.
The brothers were captured on surveillance camera at a gun range just weeks before the deadly bombing
A federal jury in 2015 found Tsarnaev guilty of all 30 counts he faced and later determined he deserved execution for a bomb he planted that killed two of the victims. He has been serving his sentence in the high-security supermax prison in Colorado
Tsarnaev was convicted on 30 charges, including conspiracy and use of a weapon of mass destruction. On the day of his sentencing, Tsarnaev admitted his crimes
The jury determined he deserved the death penalty for a bomb he planted that killed 8-year-old Martin Richard and 23-year-old Chinese exchange student Lingzi Lu.
Restaurant manager Krystle Campbell, 29, was also killed in the attack by a bomb placed by Tamerlan.
Bill and Denise Richard, whose 8-year-old son Martin was the youngest fatality in the attack, in a statement printed on the front page of the Boston Globe in 2015 had asked the Department of Justice to drop its pursuit of the death penalty, saying it would only prolong their pain.
‘We know that the government has its reasons for seeking the death penalty, but the continued pursuit of that punishment could bring years of appeals and prolong reliving the most painful day of our lives,’ the couple wrote in a statement titled ‘To end the anguish, drop the death penalty.’
On the day of his sentencing, Tsarnaev admitted his crimes.
‘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,’ Tsarnaev said.
‘In case there is any doubt, I am guilty of this attack, along with my brother.’