NewsCrime Watch


Department of Justice to seek death penalty once again for Boston Marathon bomber

Posted at 7:43 AM, Aug 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-21 09:43:55-04

The Justice Department plans to once again ask for the death penalty in the case of of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the man convicted of 30 counts in connection with the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. The bombing killed three people and wounded hundreds.

This decision comes after a federal appeals court in Massachusetts overturned Tsarnaev's death sentence last month. The panel found that there was reason to believe that the presiding judge at trial did not sufficiently vet the jurors, pointing out social media posts by two of them. The panel wondered why the judge did not question the jurors when the posts were made public. The individual who became the jury foreperson retweeted a post calling Tsarnaev a "piece of garbage."

In an interview with the Associated Press on Thursday, Attorney General William Barr indicated his department would appeal the ruling. "We will do whatever's necessary," Barr told the AP. "We will take it up to the Supreme Court and we will continue to pursue the death penalty."

U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling issued a statement later Thursday night, backing the appeal and describing Tsarnev as "an ideologically driven mass killer."

"The severity of Tsarnaev's crimes place him in that narrow category of criminals for whom death is a proportional punishment," Lelling said. "Some have argued that executing Tsarnaev will not deter others from pursuing similar crimes. But, ultimately, this decision is not about deterrence. It is about justice."

Tsarnaev was convicted in 2015 for his role in the attack, which led to a days-long manhunt that shut down Boston. Tsarnaev's lawyers say his brother Tamerlan, who was killed in a shootout with authorities, was the mastermind. An officer died in the shootout with the brothers and the pair also killed a campus police officer while authorities pursued them.

Last year, the Attorney General announced his department would lift a 17 year freeze on executions, saying "the Justice Department upholds the rule of law—and we owe it to the victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system."

Three men were executed in July, and four more are scheduled to take place in the next five weeks. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, Tsarnaev is one of 59 people currently on death row.