US appeals court overturns Boston Marathon bomber's death sentence

The death sentence for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been overturned and a new penalty phase of the trial ordered.


The U.S. Court of Appeals has overturned the death sentence for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and ordered a new penalty phase trial.

"Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's convictions on Counts 13, 15, and 18 are reversed, and the district court is directed to enter a judgment of acquittal on those counts," the ruling, which was entered at 3 p.m. on Friday said. "Dzhohkar Tsarnaev's death sentences on Counts 4, 5, 9, 10, and 14 are vacated, and the matter is remanded to the district court with directions to hold a new penalty-phase trial."

Authorities say Tsarnaev and his brother Tamerlan set off the bomb near the finish line of the Boston Marathon in 2013, killing three people and injuring more than 260 others. Tamerlan later died in a shootout with police.

Tsarnaev was sentenced to death in 2015 after being found guilty of 30 counts connected to the April 2013 fatal marathon bombing.

Tsarnaev’s lawyers in December 2019 argued in front of the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston that the death penalty ruling should be thrown out. They argued that Tsarnaev did not receive a fair trial, saying the trial should have been moved out of Boston, rather than it being held in the midst of where the bombing occurred.

They also pointed to social media posts from two jurors suggesting they harbored strong opinions even before the 2015 trial started.

Tsarnaev’s lawyers said one of the jurors, who would go one to become the jury’s foreperson, or chief spokesperson, published two dozen tweets in the wake of the bombings. One post after Tsarnaev’s capture called him a “piece of garbage.”

The appeals judges, in a hearing on the case in early December, devoted a significant number of questions to the juror bias argument. They asked why 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.

The three-judge panel agreed with Tsarnaev's lawyers in the 240 page decision handed down Friday.

The ruling comes less than a month after the Supreme Court cleared the way for the Trump administration to resume federal executions for the first time in 17 years.