Boston Marathon suicide bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s attorney urged a federal appeals court on Tuesday to overturn the 29-year-old’s death sentence over allegations of juror misconduct just months after its reactivation by the highest court in the land.
Tsarnaev is stepping up efforts to avoid execution after the Supreme Court last year reinstated the death sentence imposed on him for his role in the bombing that killed three people and injured others. hundreds near the marathon finish line in 2013.
His lawyers are now challenging issues that were not considered by the Supreme Court, including whether the trial judge wrongly rejected his challenge to two jurors who defense lawyers say lied during the interrogation of jury selection.
A juror said she did not comment on the case online, but retweeted a post calling Tsarnaev “trash”. “so that he can serve on the jury and send Tsarnaev to ‘the prison where he will be taken,’ the defense lawyers say. Tsarnaev’s lawyers raised these concerns during jury selection, but the judge chose not to deepen them, they say.
“This case was tried in Boston on the promise … that despite the extraordinary impact of the bombing marathon on this community, questioning potential jurors would weed out anyone unqualified, Tsarnaev’s attorney, Daniel Habib, told the 1st US Circuit Court of Appeals. judges. “This promise has not been kept.”
The Justice Department continued to push to keep Tsarnaev’s sentence even after Attorney General Merrick Garland imposed a moratorium on federal executions last year while the department conducts a review of its policies and procedures. The department did not say how long it could continue the detention, which came after President Donald Trump’s former administration put 13 inmates to death in its last six months.
President Joe Biden has said he opposes the death penalty and will work to end its use, but he has taken no action to do so while in office. And the moratorium does not prevent federal prosecutors from seeking the death penalty, as they are in the case of a man currently on trial for killing eight people on a New York City bike path in 2017.
William Glaser, a Justice Department lawyer, told the appeals court that the trial judge had done nothing wrong in his treatment of jurors. Glaser acknowledged that the jurors made inaccurate statements, but said other revelations those jurors made in court suggested they simply didn’t remember everything perfectly.
“There is no indication in this filing that the inaccuracies were the kind of conscious dishonesty that would lead to disqualification,” Glaser said.
But Judge William Kayatta Jr. wondered how the trial judge could know that without delving into Tsarnaev’s claims. And Judge O. Rogeriee Thompson told the Justice Department’s attorney that she struggled to see how Tsarnaev couldn’t at least plausibly claim that the juror who was told to “play the role ” knowingly lied.
“If, for example, the Facebook friend had said ‘be part of the jury and make sure the death penalty isn’t imposed’, I find it hard to believe you wouldn’t be here defending the opposite of what you’re arguing about now,'” she told Glaser.
Some bombing survivors who attended the hearing then met briefly with Massachusetts US Attorney Rachael Rollins outside the courtroom. Marc Fucarile, who lost a leg and suffered other serious injuries in the blast, said he came to the arguments to let judges know that survivors “always watch what they are doing”.
“At some point we have to draw a line in the sand and say enough is enough. What he did is not in question,” Fucarile told The Associated Press.
Tsarnaev’s lawyers admitted early in his trial that he and his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, set off the two bombs that killed Lingzi Lu, a 23-year-old Chinese graduate student from Boston University; Krystle Campbell, a 29-year-old restaurant manager from Medford, Massachusetts; and Martin Richard, 8, of Boston.
They argued, however, that he should not be put to death, saying his brother had radicalized him and was the mastermind of the attack.
Tsarnaev was found guilty in 2015 of 30 charges against him, including conspiracy and use of a weapon of mass destruction and the murder of Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer Sean Collier during the attempted escape by the Tsarnaev brothers. Tamerlan Tsarnaev died in a shootout with police days after the April 15, 2013 attack.
The 1st Circuit in 2020 overturned Tsarnaev’s death sentence and ordered a retrial in the penalty phase to decide whether he should be executed, finding that the judge had not questioned jurors sufficiently about their exposure to a broad media coverage of the bombing. But the Supreme Court justices, by a 6-3 vote, agreed with the Biden administration that the 1st Circuit’s decision was wrong.