- The Washington Times - Monday, March 22, 2021

The Supreme Court announced Monday it will hear a case to reinstate the death sentence for the Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, putting President Biden in a conundrum about capital punishment.

The death penalty was first sought against Tsarnaev by then-Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. during the Obama administration where Mr. Biden served as vice president. The Trump administration continued fighting for Tsarnaev’s execution.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Monday the president recognizes the “horror” of the Boston Marathon bombing but has “grave concerns” with capital punishment.

“President Biden has made clear, as he did on the campaign trail, that he has grave concerns about whether capital punishment as currently implemented is consistent with the values that are fundamental to our sense of justice and fairness,” she said. “He also has expressed his horror at the events of that day.”

The federal government has not formally reversed its position in the case since the change in administrations.

The Supreme Court won’t consider the constitutionality of the death penalty. The justices will focus on whether the jury was impartial when considering the punishment for the al Qaeda-inspired bomber. Tsarnaev was sentenced to death in 2015 after he and his brother Tamerlan placed homemade bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon in 2013, killing three people and severely injuring hundreds more.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s attorneys petitioned the appeals court to overturn the jury’s death sentence, arguing lawyers did not get to quiz prospective jurors about media coverage and whether that led to bias against the defendant.

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did overturn Tsarnaev’s sentence last year, but the Trump administration moved to reinstate the punishment of death by lethal injection.

“Only through inappropriate second-guessing could a reviewing court fault the district court’s careful jury-selection procedures here,” the Trump Justice Department argued in its petition.

Tsarnaev’s lawyers told the high court the government wouldn’t benefit from another review of the case, arguing two jurors lied during jury selection about their conduct on social media.

“Those activities included a Twitter post calling [Tsarnaev] a ‘piece of garbage,’ and a Facebook conversation in which a juror was exhorted to ‘get on the jury’ to ensure that [Tsarnaev] would be ‘taken care of,’” they said in court papers.

The justices did not comment on the case in Monday’s orders, only noting they will hear it.

The case will be argued during the court’s next term, which begins in October.

The Tsarnaevs were inspired by al Qaeda and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev told federal investigators the siblings were angry about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, in which Muslims were being killed.

The brothers fled from the police once they were identified as suspects in the bombing and killed one police officer during the chase. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was apprehended, but Tamerlan Tsarnaev died in the pursuit.

Seth McLaughlin contributed to this article.

• Alex Swoyer can be reached at aswoyer@washingtontimes.com.

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