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Appeals Court Tosses Boston Marathon Bomber’s Death Sentence, Orders New Penalty Trial

U.S. News Chloe 1weeks ago (08-01) 5Views 0Comments

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Appeals Court Tosses Boston Marathon Bomber’s Death Sentence, Orders New Penalty Trial

A federal appeals court on Friday vacated the death sentence of聽Boston聽Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and ordered a new penalty-phase trial.

Dzhokhar and his now-deceased 26-year-old brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, set off two homemade pressure-cooker bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon in聽2013. The bombing killed three people and injured more than 260 others鈥攂ecoming one of the highest-profile attacks in the United States since Sept. 11, 2001.

Dzhokhar was found guilty on 30 charges including聽using a weapon of mass destruction and for fatally shooting a policeman. The trial judge sentenced聽Dzhokhar to death after the jury found that he deserved the death penalty for 6 of the 17 death-eligible charges in 2015.

Appeals Court Tosses Boston Marathon Bomber’s Death Sentence, Orders New Penalty Trial This undated file photo released by the FBI on April 19, 2013, shows Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. (FBI/(AP Photo)

A three-judge panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in their ruling on Friday said the death sentence had to be vacated in order to ensure fairness in the criminal justice system.

Dzhokhar’s lawyers聽had argued that intense media coverage had made it impossible to have a fair trial in Boston and had tried to change the venue of the trial, a request which was denied. The lawyers also argued that聽two jurors displayed聽strong opinions on social media over the event before the trial began in 2015.

The lawyers said one of the jurors, who eventually became the jury’s foreperson鈥攁 chief spokesperson鈥攈ad dozens of posts on her social media about the bombings that raised questions about her impartially. Many of her posts聽showed “a community allegiance that is certain to color her view of the case,”聽Dzhokhar’s lawyers said. One of the posts had called Dzhokhar a “piece of garbage.”

During the appeal hearing in December, the judges focused much of their questioning on聽juror bias, asking the lawyers why聽the two jurors had not been dismissed, or at least why the trial judge had not asked them follow-up questions after the posts came to light on the eve of the trial.

The judges noted that the Boston court has a longstanding rule obligating such an inquiry.

“A core promise of our criminal-justice system is that even the very worst among us deserves to be fairly tried and lawfully punished,” the judges wrote (pdf).

Yet the judges emphasized that although they had vacated the death penalty and聽reversed Dzhokhar’s convictions on several charges that had errors, the 27-year-old “will spend his remaining days locked up in prison.”

“The only question remaining being whether the government will end his life by executing him,” the judges wrote.

Dzhokhar’s lawyers conceded that their client had committed the acts during the trial, but defended his actions by saying that his participation in the crimes was a result of his brother Tamerlan’s influence.聽Tsarnaev was killed in a gun battle with police days after the bombing.

The appeals court ruling comes less than a month after the Supreme Court cleared the way for the Trump administration to聽push forward with its plans to聽resume federal executions after a nearly 20-year pause. Three convicted murderers were put to death by lethal injection as part of this push earlier this month.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Follow Janita on Twitter: @janitakan

Focus News: Appeals Court Tosses Boston Marathon Bomber’s Death Sentence, Orders New Penalty Trial

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