SCOTUS ruling to reinstate death penalty for Boston bomber could put Biden admin in a bind

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(Video Credit: MSNBC)

The Supreme Court voted 6 to 3 on Friday to reinstate the death penalty for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev with the Biden administration confusingly arguing in front of SCOTUS for his execution and at the same time previously imposing a moratorium on the federal death penalty.

It appears that on the one hand, the Biden administration is against anyone being executed at the federal level except for Tsarnaev.

Fox News reporter Shannon Bream pointed out the conflicting stances by the administration and how it leaves them in an “odd situation,” to say the least.

“BREAKING: #SCOTUS finds death penalty for Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was improperly thrown out by lower court. 6-3,” she tweeted as the story broke.

“Opinion by J. Thomas: ‘Dzhokhar Tsarnaev committed heinous crimes. The Sixth Amendment nonetheless guaranteed him a fair trial before an impartial jury. He received one. The judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit is reversed,’” she continued in the thread.

“Creates odd situation for Biden Administration – which has both: 1) put a moratorium on the federal death penalty, and 2) argued to SCOTUS that Tsarnaev should be executed. Now what …,” she pointed out laying bare the conflict between the Biden administration and the Department of Justice.

A three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, in Boston, upheld Tsarnaev’s convictions in 2020 on all counts. But, that court ruled that his death sentence should be vacated because the trial judge had not questioned jurors closely enough about their exposure to pretrial publicity and had excluded evidence concerning Tsarnaev, according to  The New York Times.

Following that ruling, attorneys for the government under the Trump administration lobbied the Supreme Court to hear the case. SCOTUS agreed and as President Joe Biden came into office he continued to pursue the case despite his assertion that he would work to abolish federal executions. The Justice Department under his administration has imposed a moratorium on carrying out the federal death penalty.

In 17 years there were no federal executions until Trump came into office. In July of 2020, the first one occurred. Over six months, the Trump administration had 13 inmates executed which is more than three times the number the federal government had put to death in the previous six decades.

Regarding the decision to reimpose the death penalty, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote, “On April 15, 2013, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev planted and detonated two homemade pressure-cooker bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The blasts hurled nails and metal debris into the assembled crowd, killing three while maiming and wounding hundreds. Three days later, the brothers murdered a campus police officer, carjacked a graduate student, and fired on police who had located them in the stolen vehicle. Dzhokhar attempted to flee in the vehicle but inadvertently killed Tamerlan by running him over. Dzhokhar was soon arrested and indicted.”

“A jury found Dzhokhar guilty of 30 federal crimes and recommended the death penalty for 6 of them. The District Court accordingly sentenced Dzhokhar to death. The Court of Appeals vacated the death sentence. We now reverse,” he bluntly stated.

“Each detonation sent fire and shrapnel in all directions. The blast from Tamerlan’s bomb shattered Krystle Campbell’s left femur and mutilated her legs. Though bystanders tried to save her, she bled to death on the sidewalk. Dzhokhar’s bomb ripped open the legs of Boston University student Lingzi Lu. Rescuers tried to stem the bleeding by using a belt as a makeshift tourniquet. She too bled to death. Eight-year-old Martin Richard absorbed the full blast of Dzhokhar’s bomb. BBs, nails, and other metal fragments shot through his abdomen, cutting through his aorta, spinal cord, spleen, liver, pancreas, left kidney, and large intestines. The blast propelled shrapnel with such force that it exited his back. Other shrapnel nearly severed his left hand. The explosion also caused third-degree burns. Martin ultimately died from blood loss,” the justice recounted.

“Dzhokhar Tsarnaev committed heinous crimes,” Thomas concluded. “The Sixth Amendment nonetheless guaranteed him a fair trial before an impartial jury. He received one. The judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit is reversed.”


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