Death Penalty Overturned for Convicted Boston Marathon Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev


On April 15, 2013, at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, brothers Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev struck fear in the hearts and minds of millions of Americans both those at home watching and the millions of Boston area residents that soon became an integral part in the manhunt for the brothers throughout the city and nearby suburbs.


Utilizing two homemade pressure cooker bombs deployed in backpacks that were left near the finish line of the race, the brothers killed 3 people while injuring hundreds more to include 17 that ultimately lost limbs. Shortly after images of the suspected bombers were released to the public, an unprecedented manhunt throughout the streets of Boston and nearby communities began in earnest on April 19. With the help of the public, police engaged the brothers in a shootout in the neighboring Boston suburb of Watertown that culminated with the elder brother - Tamerlan Tsarnaev - being shot and later dying from his wounds. Ultimately, the younger brother escaped but was later found by a Watertown resident who saw Dzhokhar go into his boat on the backyard in an effort to evade the police. Dzhokhar was shot several times before being taken into custody and was eventually convicted in 2015 of 30 charges and sentenced to death.


Despite being found guilty and Dzhokhar's public apology to the victims in court, his lawyers appealed the death penalty sentence in 2018 on the grounds that he was deprived a fair trial because the judge refused to move the proceedings from Boston to another city that had not been personally horrified by the bombings. On July 30, 2020 a federal appeals court overturned the death penalty conviction for Dzhokhar after determining that the original judge failed to appropriately screen potential jurors for bias against the defendant. For the victims and their families in addition to those that worked tirelessly on the law enforcement and prosecution side of the Dzhokhar case the decision is gut wrenching. To complicate it further, the judge that overruled the death penalty sentence even admitted that there is absolutely no doubt that Dzhokhar is guilty.


Now that the decision to repeal the death penalty sentence has been made, the government faces an agonizing decision: whether or not to put the victims of the Boston Marathon Bombing the through a second trial that would require them to relive their stories and confront their attacker in court or to accept the court's decision and remand Dzhokhar to a lifetime behind bars. 


Regardless of the decision made, it is clear that the city of Boston is once again in turmoil as leaders agonize over their decision. For many, Dzhokhar's acknowledgment of guilt and the knowledge that he'll spend the rest of his living days in a maximum security prison is punishment enough while others want him to receive an eye for an eye with the death penalty.

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