Appeals Court Orders Investigation into Juror Bias in Boston Marathon Bomber’s Case

Appeals Court Orders Investigation into Juror Bias in Boston Marathon Bomber’s Case

A federal appeals court has directed the judge who presided over the trial of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to investigate claims of juror bias and determine the validity of his death sentence. The three-judge panel of the 1st US Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston did not overturn Tsarnaev’s death sentence but found that the trial judge failed to adequately address the defendant’s allegations. The defense had argued that two jurors displayed bias during the trial, which resulted in Tsarnaev’s conviction for his role in the 2013 bombing that killed three people and injured hundreds near the marathon’s finish line.

The appeals court has instructed the judge to conduct a new investigation and, if necessary, vacate Tsarnaev’s sentence. In such a scenario, a new penalty-phase trial would be held to determine whether Tsarnaev should be sentenced to death. However, the court emphasized that regardless of the outcome, Tsarnaev will spend the rest of his life in prison.

The US attorney’s office in Massachusetts declined to comment on the appeals court’s decision, leaving open the possibility for the Justice Department to either seek a review by the full 1st Circuit or appeal to the US Supreme Court. Tsarnaev’s lawyers have not yet responded to requests for comment.

This development marks the latest twist in the protracted legal proceedings surrounding Tsarnaev’s case. The Supreme Court had previously reinstated his death sentence in 2022 after the 1st Circuit had overturned it in 2020, citing inadequate questioning of jurors regarding their exposure to media coverage of the bombing. The 1st Circuit revisited the case following Tsarnaev’s lawyers’ request to examine additional issues not considered by the Supreme Court, including the trial judge’s alleged errors in venue selection and dismissing defense challenges to two jurors who were accused of lying during questioning.

Despite a moratorium on federal executions imposed by Attorney General Merrick Garland, the Justice Department has continued to advocate for upholding Tsarnaev’s death sentence. The moratorium was implemented after the Trump administration executed 13 inmates in its final six months.

During oral arguments before the appeals court, Tsarnaev’s lawyers highlighted the alleged dishonesty of two jurors during the jury selection process. One juror had retweeted a post referring to Tsarnaev as a “piece of garbage,” while another had failed to disclose a Facebook friend’s comment urging him to ensure Tsarnaev’s imprisonment. The defense argued that the trial judge did not adequately address these concerns, while the Justice Department contended that the jurors had made inaccurate statements rather than intentionally lied.

The appeals court acknowledged that there could be innocent explanations for the jurors’ conduct, such as forgetfulness or misunderstanding of the judge’s questions. However, it criticized the trial judge for not conducting a thorough inquiry to rule out more pernicious explanations. The panel voted 2-1 in favor of sending the case back for further investigation into the jurors, with Judge Jeffrey Howard dissenting.

It is important to note that the appeal did not challenge Tsarnaev’s guilt in the deaths of Lingzi Lu, Krystle Campbell, and Martin Richard, nor the killing of Massachusetts Institute of Technology Police Officer Sean Collier. The defense argued that Tsarnaev had been influenced by his older brother, Tamerlan, who died in a confrontation with the police shortly after the bombing. Tsarnaev was convicted on all 30 charges, including conspiracy and use of a weapon of mass destruction.

Author: CrimeDoor

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