Court Overturns Death Sentence for Boston Marathon Bomber

Judges upheld Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's 2015 conviction for the deadly bombing, but ordered a new sentencing trial to determine whether he will be executed.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

Image via Getty/AFP

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

A federal appeals court has vacated the death sentence for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the man who was convicted of carrying out the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

According to the Associated Press, a three-judge panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals announced the ruling on Friday, more than six months after Tsarnaev's legal team appealed his sentence. Attorneys argued that Tsarnaev did not receive a fair trial because it was nearly impossible for a Boston-based jury to set aside their bias. 

"The marathon bombings targeted a beloved and iconic civil institution," Tsarnaev's lawyer Daniel Habib argued in late 2019. "It traumatized an entire community whose members mourned the victims, sheltered in their homes behind locked doors during the manhunt, celebrated Tsarnaev’s capture in the streets and together began to heal in the Boston Strong movement."

Three people were killed and more than 260 others were injured in the 2013 bombing. Shortly after the attack, Tsarnaev wrote an apology note in which he confessed to carrying out the attack along with his brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was killed in a police shootout several days after the bombing. Tsarnaev was convicted on 30 charges and sentenced to death in 2015.

Friday's ruling upholds Tsarnaev's conviction, but ordered a lower court to hold a new sentencing trial. The judges also emphasized that their decision does not mean Tsarnaev will have a chance at freedom.

"... make no mistake: Dzhokhar will spend his remaining days locked up in prison," they wrote in the ruling, "with the only matter remaining being whether he will die by execution."

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