President Donald Trump said Sunday that he thought the federal government “must again seek” the death penalty for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, days after a federal appeals court vacated his death sentence and ordered a new penalty-phase trial.
That decision was made by a three-judge panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on July 31, which ruled that the trial judge did not adequately screen jurors for potential bias. Dzhokhar’s death sentence was then vacated in order to ensure fairness in the criminal justice system, the panel ruled.
Dzhokhar and his now-deceased 26-year-old brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, set off two homemade pressure-cooker bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon in 2013. The bombing killed three people and injured more than 260 others—becoming one of the highest-profile terrorist attacks in the United States since Sept. 11, 2001.
Dzhokhar was found guilty on 30 charges including using a weapon of mass destruction and for fatally shooting a police officer. The trial judge sentenced Dzhokhar to death after the jury found that he deserved the death penalty for 6 of the 17 death-eligible charges in 2015.
Rarely has anybody deserved the death penalty more than the Boston Bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The court agreed that this “was one of the worst domestic terrorist attacks since the 9/11 atrocities”. Yet the appellate court tossed out the death sentence. So many lives lost….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 2, 2020
Following the panel’s decision, the president said on Twitter that “rarely has anybody deserved the death penalty” more than Dzhokhar.
“The court agreed that this ‘was one of the worst domestic terrorist attacks since the 9/11 atrocities’. Yet the appellate court tossed out the death sentence,” Trump said Sunday.
“So many lives lost and ruined. The Federal Government must again seek the Death Penalty in a do-over of that chapter of the original trial. Our Country cannot let the appellate decision stand. Also, it is ridiculous that this process is taking so long!” he added.
Dzhokhar’s lawyers have conceded that their client had committed the acts, but defended his actions by saying that his participation in the crimes was a result of his brother Tamerlan’s influence. Tsarnaev was killed in a gun battle with police days after the bombing.
The appeals court ruling came less than a month after the Supreme Court cleared the way for the Trump administration to push forward with its plans to resume federal executions after a 17-year pause. Three convicted murderers were put to death by lethal injection as part of this push earlier this month.
Patricia Campbell, the mother of 29-year-old Krystle Campbell killed in the bombing, told The Boston Globe she doesn’t understand the court’s decision to vacate Dzhokhar’s death sentence.
“It’s just terrible that he’s allowed to live his life. It’s unfair,” she said. “He didn’t wake up one morning and decide to do what he did. He planned it out. He did a vicious, ugly thing.”
A survivor of the Boston marathon attack, Rebekah Gregory, called the court’s decision “disgusting” in a Twitter post.
“So people are sitting on death row for far less, and the U.S. Appeals court chooses to overturn the sentence of this COWARD??!” Gregory wrote.
“All this does is give him the attention he wants, and prolongs the nightmare we have been living the last SEVEN years. Disgusting.”
The court, despite its ruling, emphasized that Dzhokhar will spend the rest of his life behind bars.
“But make no mistake,” wrote Judge O. Rogeriee Thompson, “Dzhokhar will spend his remaining days locked up in prison, with the only matter remaining being whether he will die by execution.”
Janita Kan contributed to this report.