News & Politics

Biden Justice Department Weighs in on Death Penalty for Boston Marathon Bomber

(FBI via AP, File)

Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been sitting in prison since he was convicted and sentenced to death in 2015. Last year, an appeals court overturned his death penalty sentence citing the trial judge’s failure to sufficiently screen jurors for “bias.”

Now, despite the president’s stated opposition to the death penalty, Biden’s Justice Department is asking the full appeals court to reverse its decision and reinstate the death penalty.

“The jury carefully considered each of respondent’s crimes and determined that capital punishment was warranted for the horrors that he personally inflicted — setting down a shrapnel bomb in a crowd and detonating it, killing a child and a promising young student, and consigning several others to a lifetime of unimaginable suffering,” the DOJ brief says.

It added that the “determination by 12 conscientious jurors deserves respect and reinstatement by this Court.”


The federal appeals court “improperly vacated the capital sentences recommended by the jury in one of the most important terrorism prosecutions in our Nation’s history,” the Justice Department argued Tuesday, claiming that a prospective juror’s prior exposure to a case doesn’t mean they can’t be impartial.

“The fair determination of guilt and punishment for a ubiquitously publicized crime is neither impossible nor the peculiar province of the ignorant,” the acting solicitor general said in the new filing.

“Instead, thoughtful and informed citizens — the ideal jurors — may serve on a jury so long as they ‘can lay aside their impressions or opinions and render a verdict based on the evidence presented in court.'”

The Supreme Court agreed in March to hear the case after the appeals court ordered a new penalty phase of the trial. The request from Biden’s DoJ is a surprise given that the president is the first sitting chief executive to oppose the imposition of a federal death penalty.

Associated Press:

The initial prosecution and decision to seek a death sentence was made by the Obama administration, in which Biden served as vice president. Biden has pledged to seek an end to the federal death penalty, but he has said nothing about how he plans to do so.

The Supreme Court agreed in March to hear the case. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at the time that Biden has “grave concerns about whether capital punishment as currently implemented is consistent with the values that are fundamental to our sense of justice and fairness.” She said “he has also expressed his horror at the events of that day and Tsarnaev’s actions.”

Tsarnaev confessed to his crimes — 30 counts including using a weapon of mass destruction that resulted in death. If any crime should result in the death of the perpetrator, the Boston Marathon bomber should suffer that fate.

At the time of the appeals court decision to vacate the death penalty, I wrote this:

The death penalty should not be applied because victims demand it. It should be applied because justice demands it. Most terrorists want to die so it’s not a deterrent for terrorism. But it is a powerful statement by the society that some acts of violence are so far beyond the norms of recognized civilized behavior that death can be the terrorist’s only reward.

So let it be written. So let it be done.