The judges were divided along familiar ideological lines, however, as they considered a federal appeals court decision that overturned the sentence, citing errors made by the district court regarding the admissibility of a piece of evidence. .
Conservatives on the bench suggested that the evidence was unreliable and should not have been presented before a jury.
But three liberal judges said it got to the heart of Tsarnaev’s argument: that he should not receive the death penalty, as it was his brother who undertook to carry out the bombing.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev was later killed in an encounter with the police. Zhokhar Tsarnaev is being held in a federal prison in Florence, Colorado.
In July 2020, a federal appeals court said that Zhokhar Tsarnaev would remain in prison for the rest of his life for “unspeakable cruel acts”, but that he should be given a new penal-stage trial, which will deal with issues related to juror selection and pretrial publicity. has been cited. as well as the exclusion of evidence that could have helped in his case.
“One of the main promises of our criminal-justice system is that even the worst of us deserve to be tried fairly and punished legally,” the court said.
The Trump administration asked the Supreme Court to step in and reinstate the original sentence, a request that the Biden administration renewed, calling Tsarnaev a “radical bent on killing Americans” who have been called “one of the worst acts of terrorism” was convicted of. United States soil since September 11, 2001.”
Tsarnaev’s lawyer, Ginger Anders, told the judges that there was no dispute that the bombings were “a serious and shocking act of terrorism”, but that the lower court made two “serious errors” that required security measures to ensure that that her client should receive a suitable punishment.
During the crime phase of the trial, lawyers insisted that Tsarnaev participated only under the influence of his brother. Anders also said that the district court violated the Eighth Amendment and federal law by omitting evidence that he said would show Tamerlan Tsarnaev may have been linked to the three murders in 2011 as an act of jihad. He said the evidence could have been used to build further evidence. The case was that it was Tamerlan Tsarnaev, not his brother, who had taken the lead in the bombing and had an unusual influence on his client.
Anders wrote, “This is precisely the kind of evidence that a capital punishment jury must consider if it is to fulfill its constitutional responsibility to provide a reasonable moral response to the defendant and his guilt.”
She also took issue with the fact that the district court refused to ask potential jurors a question typically asked in high-profile cases: “What did they remember hearing about the case.”
Anders argued, “the court refused to obtain the basic information needed to evaluate the jurors’ claims of fairness, leaving the jury to be the judge of their fitness to serve.”
It is unclear whether, even if Tsarnaev’s death sentence is reinstated, if he will actually be given the death penalty, given the Biden administration’s opposition to the federal death penalty.
The Biden Administration Justice Department said that while Tsarnaev’s lawyers sought a forced search regarding the 2011 killings, they remained “unsolved” and a lower court judge said the jury would have to find Tamerlan Tsarnaev in the crime. There was insufficient evidence to describe the true role of
Regarding the jury pool, the Justice Department told judges that the court had called an expanded pool, which it examined with a lengthy questionnaire that included several questions about pre-emptive propaganda. “
Acting Solicitor General Elizabeth Preloger told the court, “This court should reverse the decision below and bring the matter back to a just conclusion.”
She said that “pre-trial publicity – even widespread, unfavorable publicity – does not necessarily lead to unfair testing.”
Preloger said the district court had done the entire process of selecting potential jurors, which spanned “21 court days and nearly 4,000 transcript pages.”
Jennifer Kaufman said she was watching the race when the first bomb exploded and suffered hearing loss, heart arrhythmias, internal bruising and swelling. She said she was against allowing another penalty phase to proceed.
In a statement to Granthshala, another survivor, Mickey Borgaard, said he felt the lower court was right to overturn the death penalty. “It identified serious problems with regard to jury selection and the exclusion of significant mitigating evidence,” he said.
He also called the death penalty “barbaric”. “I cannot bear the thought of human life extinguished by my side,” he said.
This story has been updated with the court’s oral arguments on Wednesday.
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