Judges will hear an appeal from a lower court ruling that overturned Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s death sentence.
The U.S. Supreme Court said on Monday it would consider reinstating the death penalty for Boston marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, presenting President Joe Biden with a first test of his opposition to capital punishment.
The court will hear a appeal from the US Department of Justice, filed before the departure of former President Donald Trump in January, which challenged a lower court ruling ordering a new trial on the sentence Tsarnaev should receive for crimes carrying the death penalty for which he was convicted.
President Joe Biden’s administration has given no indication of its intention to reverse the Trump administration’s approach to the case, as it has in several other cases pending in court.
Tsarnaev, 27, and his older brother, Tamerlan, precipitated five days of panic in Boston when they detonated two homemade pressure cooker bombs at the marathon finish line on April 15, 2013, then attempted to flee the city. In the days that followed, they also killed a policeman. Tsarnaev’s brother died after a shootout with the police.
Jurors in 2015 found Tsarnaev guilty of the 30 charges he faced and later determined he deserved to be executed for a bomb he planted that killed 8-year-old Martin Richard; Lingzi Lu, 23, Chinese exchange student; restaurant manager Krystle Campbell, 29, and injured more than 260 others.
The first circuit court of appeals in the United States, based in Boston ruled that the trial judge “failed” to screen jurors for possible bias following widespread media coverage of the bombings.
The Justice Department quickly appealed, asking judges to hear and decide the case by the end of the court’s current term in early summer. Then-Attorney General William Barr said last year: “We will do whatever is necessary.”
The ministry argued that the appeals court adopted a standard that wrongly denied trial judges the “broad discretion” to administer juries under Supreme Court precedents.
Prosecutors said if the ruling stands, it should re-launch the death penalty phase of the case and “victims will again have to speak out to describe the horrors the respondent has inflicted on them.”
The judges agreed to hear the appeal filed by the Trump administration, which carried out executions of 13 federal inmates during his last six months in office.
The case won’t be heard until later this year, and it’s unclear how the new administration will approach Tsarnaev’s case. The initial prosecutions and the decision to seek the death penalty were made by the Obama administration, in which Biden served as vice president.
But as president, Biden has pledged to seek an end to the federal death penalty.