Tsarnaev, convicted in the April 15, 2013 attack that left three people dead and hundreds of others wounded or maimed, was sentenced to death two years later, but a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals set the sentence aside after his lawyers raised procedural issues from his trial.
The decision by the Court to consider whether Tsarnayev’s sentence should be reinstated came in response to a petition from the government filed when former President Donald Trump was still in office, reported The Washington Post.
The Trump White House made no secret of its intention to revive the death penalty in federal capital cases. But the Court’s move presents the administration of President Joe Biden, who opposes the death penalty, with a dilemma, The Post said.
Government lawyers had not withdrawn the petition at the Supreme Court, where justices have spent months considering whether to intervene.
If the Justices reinstate the death sentence for Tsarnaev,who is currently being held in a maximum security prison in Colorado, it’s unclear whether the government would proceed.
Tsarnaev’s lawyers acknowledged that he and his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, were responsible for setting off the bombs at the marathon finish line. But they argued that Dzhokar, at the time a 19-year-old college student, was under the sway of Tamerlan.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev died in a gun battle with police a few days after the bombing.
In the original petition opposing the death penalty, Tsarnayev’s lawyers said the jurors had not been adequately vetted for bias before the trial. They called the July, 2020 appeals court decision “straightforward and fair.”
“If the government wishes to put someone to death, it must make its case to a fairly selected jury that is provided all relevant information,” the lawyers said at the time.
“The court rightly acknowledges, as do we, the extraordinary harm done to the victims of the bombing. It is now up to the government to determine whether to put the victims and Boston through a second trial, or to allow closure to this terrible tragedy by permitting a sentence of life without the possibility of release.”
Writing for the majority in that decision, Appeals Court Judge O. Rogeriee Thompson, agreed that the original trial judge did not sufficiently investigate whether potential jurors might have been tainted because of the “pervasive” media coverage of the bombing.
But he added: “Make no mistake: Dzhokhar will spend his remaining days locked up in prison, with the only matter remaining being whether he will die by execution.”