Death Penalty

Boston Bomber May Dodge Death Penalty as Justice Department Preps for More Executions

Court panel rules judge didn't properly evaluate juror bias against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.


A federal court has overturned the death penalty sentence for convicted Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, citing jury biases.

The ruling doesn't necessarily mean that Tsarnaev won't be executed. It does mean that Tsarnaev will receive a new penalty-phase trial.

Tsarnaev was convicted and sentenced to death for his role in 2013's bombing of the Boston Marathon, where three were killed and more than 200 injured. He carried out the attack with his brother Tamerlan, who was killed later in a confrontation with police.

Tsarnaev didn't fight to show his innocence so much as to avoid the death penalty. He conceded his role in the bombing, but his attorneys attempted to portray Tamerlan as the mastermind, radicalizing and pushing Tsarnaev into participating in the attack.

The jury didn't buy it, and Tsarnaev was sentenced to death in 2015. Tsarnaev's attorneys had asked for the venue for the trial to be changed, moving it out of the Boston area, but was denied. That turned out to be a problem. On Friday, a panel of judges with the U.S. Court of Appeals First Circuit determined that the judge overseeing the trial did a terrible job evaluating jurors for bias for the sentencing phase. Two jurors, for example, were seated despite having posted very strong opinions about the bombing on social media. One juror had retweeted a post calling Tsarnaev a "piece of garbage" but had told the judge she had not made any comments about the case.

Ultimately, the three-judge panel determined that U.S. District Judge George O'Toole did not properly identify and prevent prejudice from influencing Tsarnaev's sentencing. And so, because of that, they've tossed out the death sentence and called for a new jury and a new sentencing trial. The Justice Department has the option to appeal to the full court instead of accepting a panel's ruling; it could even try to take it to the Supreme Court.

There is absolutely no chance here for Tsarnaev to go free. He is still convicted of the major charges against him (though the ruling did toss three weapons-related charges for technical reasons related to the changing definitions of what constitutes a "crime of violence" under federal law). But the Sixth Amendment guarantees the accused a right to an "impartial jury," and there's documented evidence that did not happen in the sentencing phase.

Until this year, the federal government hadn't executed a prisoner since 2003. But last month President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr restarted federal executions. Over the course of four days in July, the Department of Justice executed three men who had convicted of capital murder: Daniel Lewis Lee, Wesley Ira Purkey, and Dustin Lee Honken.

The Justice Department has now scheduled two more executions for August and another two in September. On Friday, as a federal court was ordering a new sentencing hearing for Tsarnaev, the Justice Department announced that William Emmett LeCroy and Christopher Andre Vialva, both previously sentenced to death for murder, have been scheduled for lethal injections in September.

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  1. All bomber lives matter!

    1. Except for White Bomberman.

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  2. This is a travesty of justice – I think anybody who kills innocent civilians by bombing them should be facing the death penalty. Even if they didn’t directly do the bombing themselves, but merely participated, like by ordering the CIA to do it or something.

    1. Barack was just manipulated by his evil brother George.

      1. Can’t we just please, stick a pipe bomb up his ass? And detonate it during the Pres. debates or Macy’s parade or something?

    2. “I think anybody who kills innocent civilians by bombing them should be facing the death penalty.”

      Good luck recruiting bomber pilots.

      1. First comment of yours I’ve ever liked. Well, at least for a long time.

  3. Where does someone like him get an impartial jury? His crimes were nationwide news, everyone knows what he did.

    If you believe in the death penalty, this case calls for it. If you don’t believe in the death penalty then it doesn’t. A new sentencing phase doesn’t do anything about providing impartial judgement, all it does is say whether or not that set of jurors believe in the death penalty.

    1. If you’re super cynical, it could be a case that executing terrorists was fantastic under the Obama administration and a travesty under the Trump administration.

      There’s nowhere in the country for this guy to find an impartial jury, though. Let’s not forget the two cops they murdered in their failed attempts to escape.

      1. Just switch to AI juries. No more forced jury duty under penalty of law.

        The AI can review all prior cases dating back to 1789, and can instantly recall all the admissible facts of a case.

        An AI jury may have systemic racism built in based on the verdicts of past cases, but would not be biased based on media reports.

        1. And the AI could include verdicts that were overturned later to help with its neural learning.

    2. I think this is more an attempt to try to protect the “legitimacy” of the process. Obviously it isn’t going to be impartial anywhere else, but they will try to make it less obviously so (e.g., by selecting jurors that don’t have twitter threads…). I’d wager its more about protecting the system than anything about the death penalty and/or Tsarnaev

      1. Yeah I see that, it’s just weird that they’re doing it at sentencing. I understand completely that you can’t have any bias during the actual trial, that guilty verdict has to be legitimate.

        What bias are you correcting for in this case? Guilt has been admitted, it’s not like a life sentence gives him the possibility that new evidence emerges that exonerates him. All we’re accomplishing at this point is figuring out whether the new set of jurors believes in the death penalty or not.

      2. I think this is more an attempt to try to protect the “legitimacy” of the process.

        That’s overly generous. This is obstructionism. These judges oppose the DP and hope constantly increasing the hurdles necessary to enforce it convinces everyone to give up on using it.

        Then they’ll start doing the same thing for LWOP.

  4. >>asked for the venue for the trial to be changed, moving it out of the Boston area, but was denied

    no I will not cede the most famous case I have ~~ Judge

  5. Tsarnaev has served enough time and should be released onto a Boston street at a pre-announced date and time.

    1. And what about COVID? Doesn’t the appellate court care??

      In all seriousness, it’s weird that they didn’t remand with a demand for a new trial. They could always let Mass take a crack at him for the cop murders. No death penalty, but that didn’t help Geoghan either…

    2. Preferably South Boston

    3. why not Newsom is releasing killers left and right so that they don’t catch Coivd and die in jail even though they were sentenced to die in jail

      1. That’s not fair
        It’s also so they can riot

  6. Execute him. I’d prefer a public hanging but any kind will do.

    Cry reason koch libs. Your time is ending with the reelection of Trump.

    1. Why limit yourself in the manner of execution?

      I like Unicorn’s above idea: just let the public know exactly when and where you plan to release him. Whatever happens happens.

      1. Antifa and BLM would adopt him

  7. Tsarnaev didn’t fight to show his innocence so much as to avoid the death penalty.

    Funny that.

  8. Daniel Lewis Lee, Wesley Ira Purkey, and Dustin Lee Honken.

    Purkey was probably innocent because he didn’t have “Lee” in his name.

    Also, I see a lack of representation. Where are the women?

  9. Publish with the dreamy picture of the guy, Shackleford, you coward!

  10. “There I was, minding my own business, when all of a sudden an older, sophisticated, now-dead guy who we can’t talk to seduced me into a radical ideology. Oh, lower the voting age to 16!”

  11. Showing emotion he rarely displayed during his trial, Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on Wednesday apologized to victims and survivors.

    That’s because he wasn’t in the sentencing phase.

  12. This is, of course, total bullshit.

    Either the jury was biased enough to deny Tsarnaev due process of law and his conviction should be thrown out entirely, or they weren’t and accordingly his sentence of death was perfectly legitimate.

    So either the judges have endorsed a miscarriage of justice, or they have deliberately thrown out a proper and legal sentence for knowingly specious reasons. Either way, it should immediately and permanently end both their judicial careers and their right to practice law.

    1. Tsarmaev defense was he committed the bombing but didn’t deserve the death penalty, so the conviction should stand regardless.

  13. Meh….execute him now (preferred), or execute him later (acceptable). Either way, that islamic terrorist is gone, on the one-way Paradise Train.

    Alternatively, put him in the general prison population where the sodomites can have at him.

  14. With a murderer like this the court should just go into any local bar in Boston get 10-15 volunteers and execute him by firing squad or hanging in Fenway Park.

    No doubt exists as to what he did. He is completely without remorse. No benefit exists to “studying” his behavior. Just get it over with already.

    And since he murdered a bunch of citizens in Boston, it is most fitting for him to die by their hands. Period.

    This is one of the worst cases of judicial overreach I’ve seen in years.

    1. I’ll do it. As long as I can use a sword and decapitate him. I need more quickenings.

  15. He is the poster child for state-enforced execution. It’s simply that any lesser punishment would be a travesty of justice. Every day he draws breath is mocking his many victims. And yes, every effort must be made to ensure an impartial jury. There is no evidence that he didn’t have one.

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  17. How do you define “juror bias”? Of course any rational person is going to have some level of bias in any situation like this. Tsarnaev and his brother murdered innocent people for nothing but a brutal death cult theology that promises paradise in the next life. Seems like he’d a be a prime candidate for the chair.

  18. OK, so impartially sentence him to a halfway trip back to his homeland.

  19. “citing jury biases”

    Offset the biases by setting mandatory quotas to make sure there are teenage girls on the jury

    1. OMG! He’s just so, like, dreamy!

  20. Terrorists should always be put to death. It should be the only sentence allowed.

  21. Mixed emotions here….. On one hand he escaped the death penalty…(bummer). On the other hand he got screwed out of having the 72 virgins…Hah

  22. Surprised at seeing some of the comments here.

    Everyone deserves a fair trial. These types of cases are the ones where it’s easy and convenient to overlook a miscarriage of the justice process to secure the result everyone wants and knows is ‘right’. Standing up to government rights-violations often means defending the rights of despicable people, because they are seen as the easy targets and “who cares anyway, we know he’s guilty” handwaving is easier.

    Be mad at judge O’Toole. He is the one who failed here. He shouldn’t have cut corners during the jury selection and trial.

    1. The problem I have is that it seems to be a rather trivial objection given the magnitude of the charges. Someone who notoriously murdered a significant number of people on public television? There is no unbiased jury, and we should accept that fact. There is no reason to think that these questions had a meaningful effect.

      This seems to be just another back-door workaround to stop the death penalty. People are tired of the nonsense shenanigans that have been pulled time and time again with the most tired or absurd excuses why death penalty cannot be applied. Activists who want to stop it need to work on a constitutional amendment to change the law.

  23. Only one thing for it. Find a jury of people who don’t speak English, can’t read, don’t know where Boston is, don’t remember 9/11, don’t know what terrorism is…so they can acquit him.

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