The Feds First Circuit court of appeals has vacated the death sentence of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, based on the opinion that the judge in the case did not vet the jury properly with regard to possible bias stemming from pretrial publicity.
The Liberal activist appellate court not only tossed Tsarnaev’s death sentence it also overturned three of the convictions of the Boston Marathon bomber.
The court in its ruling cited multiple errors in the proceedings that found Dzhokhar guilty and then condemned him to death.— including that the trial judge failed to ensure that jurors were untainted by pre-trial publicity.
The ruling will not result in Tsarnaev being freed, and the death penalty will now be revisited in a penalty-phase trial do-over.
“Dzhokhar will remain confined to prison for the rest of his life, with the only question remaining being whether the government will end his life by executing him,” the ruling said.
The 224-page ruling was released Friday afternoon by federal appellate Judge O. Rogeriee Thompson.
The ruling began by acknowledging that the 2013 bombing, committed with a pair of homemade bombs by Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan — who died in a police shooting — was “one of the worst domestic terrorist attacks since the 9/11 atrocities.”
The brothers’ bombs “caused battlefield-like carnage,” ending three lives and inflicting “horrific, life-altering injuries” on hundreds more.
In fleeing, the brothers “also gunned down a local campus police officer in cold blood,” the ruling noted.
Eventually captured, and put on trial two years later, Dzhokhar through his lawyers “conceded he did everything the government alleged,” the judge wrote — but he fought the death penalty by blaming his dead brother for having radicalized him.
The jury thought otherwise, convicting on all charges and finding he should be executed on the death-penalty eligible counts, a recommendation with which a district judge complied.
Boston Marathon Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev First Circuit Judges
The panel of judges included
- Juan R. Torruella (A Ronald Reagan appointee who filed a separate opinion which concurred in part, joined in part, and concurred in the judgment.)
- O. Rogeriee Thompson (a Barack Obama appointee)
- William J. Kayatta, Jr. (also an Obama appointee). There were no dissents.
Here is how the court described the backdrop of the events in Boston:
Together with his older brother Tamerlan, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev detonated two homemade bombs at the 2013 Boston Marathon, thus committing one of the worst domestic terrorist attacks since the 9/11 atrocities. Radical jihadists bent on killing Americans, the duo caused battlefield-like carnage. Three people died. And hundreds more suffered horrific, life-altering injuries. Desperately trying to flee the state, the brothers also gunned down a local campus police officer in cold blood. Reports and images of their brutality flashed across the TV, computer, and smartphone screens of a terrified public — around the clock, often in real time. One could not turn on the radio either without hearing something about these stunningly sad events.
Dzhokhar eventually got caught, though Tamerlan died after a violent confrontation with the police.
Indicted on various charges arising from these ghastly events, Dzhokhar stood trial about two years later in a courthouse just miles from where the bombs went off. Through his lawyers, he conceded that he did everything the government alleged. But he insisted that Tamerlan was the radicalizing catalyst, essentially intimidating him into acting as he had.
The appeals court judges pointed to “extensive and sensational” pretrial publicity — which was not adequately dealt with during jury voir dire or during motions for a change of venue. The judges said the local jury pool was “neither impartial nor indifferent” in the case on account of the attention it received.