An appeals court has overturned the death sentence of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of two brothers who planned and carried out the bombing at the Boston Marathon in 2013.
The three judge panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a new penalty phase of the trial that convicted Tsarnaev, citing the trial judge’s failure to adequately screen the jurors for bias.
The 2013 terrorist attack killed three people and wounded hundreds. Tsarnaev also murdered MIT police officer Sean Collier while on the run from authorities following the bombing.
“But 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,” Judge O. Rogeriee Thompson wrote in the ruling, more than six months after arguments were heard in the case.
An attorney for Tsarnaev said they are grateful for the court’s “straightforward and fair decision: 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.”
“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,” David Patton said in an email.
The people of Boston want Tsaraenev to die. Fox News reports on one survivor, Adrianne Haslet, who wrote on her Instagram account, “He needs to die.” Haslet, a dancer, lost a leg in the bombing.
“The death penalty should be used in this particular case,” Haslet wrote. “This terrorist admitted in court he was guilty of crimes committed against our country. He confessed. … He is a threat to all of us and he needs to die.”
Haslet has since become an advocate for amputees, FOX affiliate Boston 25 reported.
Tsarnaev’s appeal has been going on for 5 years already and won’t end for years to come. And then come the appeals of his trial verdict, judge’s instructions, biased jurors — defense attorneys who specialize in keeping criminals off death row have become experts at delaying justice.
Another attack survivor, Rebekah Gregory, wrote on Twitter that the court’s decision was “Disgusting.” Gregory, 32, a young mother, also lost a leg as a result of the attack.
“So people are sitting on death row for far less, and the US Appeals court chooses to overturn the sentence of this COWARD??!” Gregory wrote.
“All this does is give him the attention he wants, and prolongs the nightmare we have been living the last SEVEN years. Disgusting.”
One survivor probably spoke for many others when she said overturning the verdict doesn’t change anything.
“Today’s death reversal doesn’t change me or my husband’s happiness. It doesn’t bring back our friend Sean,” Kim Donohue wrote, referring to Sean Collier, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer who was killed by the Tsarnaev brothers.
“I’ve been inspired by survivors, moved to tears by doctors, and forever indebted to those who saved Dic’s life in Watertown. No sentencing will ever change that.”
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.
The Justice Department could ask for a hearing by the entire appeals court or they could, once again, try Tsarnaev in the penalty phase. That would mean asking victims to, once again, relive that horrible day.
Is it worth it?