Biden’s DOJ asks Supreme Court to reimpose death sentence for Boston Marathon bomber, despite pledge to end capital punishment

The US Justice Department is calling on the nation’s highest court to revive the death penalty for the surviving Boston Marathon bomber, despite President Joe Biden’s previous vows to end capital punishment on the federal level.

The DOJ filed a 48-page brief with the Supreme Court on Monday, asking justices to reverse a prior ruling that vacated the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who carried out the 2013 bombing along with his brother Tamerlan, killing three people and injuring hundreds more. 

“The jury carefully considered each of respondent’s crimes and determined that capital punishment was warranted for the horrors that he personally inflicted – setting down a shrapnel bomb in a crowd and detonating it, killing a child and a promising young student, and consigning several others to a lifetime of unimaginable suffering,” the document reads. 

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The department argued that Dzhokhar was a “willing participant in terrorism,” rather than a “reluctant accessory” to his brother’s crime, adding that he chose a “crowded outdoor patio with children present as the target for his shrapnel bomb, designed and built to cause maximum suffering and death.”

 [Dzhokhar] never offered a single piece of evidence to suggest that he attempted to get out from under his brother’s purported influence or felt apprehension about his crimes 

While Dzhokhar was ultimately apprehended following a shootout with police days after the bombing, Tamerlan was fatally shot in the exchange. The surviving brother, aged 19 at the time, was slapped with 30 counts in federal court, including for the three murders inflicted in the bombing and for an officer killed in the subsequent firefight. 

Dzhokhar pleaded not guilty on all counts, but was nonetheless convicted by a jury and handed a death sentence, though it was later overturned on appeal. 

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© REUTERS/Leah Millis
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The DOJ’s efforts to reinstate the death penalty for Dzhokhar come despite vows from President Joe Biden to end the practice on the federal level, stated repeatedly while campaigning for the White House last year. In contrast to his predecessor, Donald Trump, who favored the death penalty, Biden pledged to do away with it federally and even “incentivize states to follow the government’s example,” though Monday’s brief appears to be at odds with that promise.

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