Supreme Court will consider reimposing Boston Marathon bomber’s death sentence

Mug shot of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was convicted of carrying out the April 15, 2013, Boston Marathon bombing that killed three people and injured more than 260.

The Supreme Court said Monday it would consider whether to reinstate the death sentence for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, presenting President Biden with an early test of his opposition to capital punishment.

The justices agreed to hear an appeal filed by the Trump administration, which carried out executions of 13 federal inmates in its final six months.

The Tsarnaev case won’t be heard until the fall, and it’s unclear how the Biden administration will approach the matter.


The initial federal prosecution and decision to seek a death sentence were made by the Obama administration, in which Biden served as vice president, but Biden has pledged to seek an end to the federal death penalty.

In late July, the federal appeals court in Boston threw out Tsarnaev’s sentence because it said the judge at his trial did not do enough to ensure that the jury would not be biased against him.

The Justice Department moved quickly to appeal, asking the Supreme Court to hear and decide the case by the end of its current term, in early summer. Then-Atty. Gen. William Barr said last year, “We will do whatever’s necessary.”

A court ruling ordering a new trial to decide whether Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should be put to death revives the city’s anguish.

Tsarnaev’s lawyers acknowledged at the beginning of his trial that he and his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, set off the two bombs at the marathon finish line in 2013. But they argued that Dzhokar Tsarnaev was less culpable than his brother, whom they identified as the mastermind behind the attack.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, died after a gunfight with police and being run over by his brother as he fled. Police captured a bloodied and wounded Dzhokhar Tsarnaev hours later in the Boston suburb of Watertown, where he was hiding in a boat parked in a backyard.

Tsarnaev, now 27, was convicted of all 30 charges against him, including conspiracy and use of a weapon of mass destruction and the killing of a university police officer during the Tsarnaev brothers’ getaway attempt. The appeals court upheld all but a few of his convictions.