A federal appeals court on Friday tossed the death sentence of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was convicted in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.
A three-judge panel of the 1st US Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a new penalty-phase trial, finding that the judge who oversaw the case didn't sufficiently vet jurors for biases, Politico reported.
“But make no mistake: Dzhokhar will spend his remaining days locked up in prison, with the only matter remaining being whether he will die by execution,” the judges said.
The April 15, 2013, attack killed three people and injured more than 260 others.
Tsarnaev's lawyers acknowledged at the beginning of his trial that he and his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, set off the two bombs at the marathon finish line. However, they argued that Dzhokar Tsarnaev is less culpable than his brother, who they said was the mastermind behind the attack.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev died in a gun battle with police a few days after the bombing. Dzhokar Tsarnaev is now behind bars at a high-security supermax prison in Florence, Colorado.
Dzhokar Tsarnaez was sentenced to death by a jury in May of 2015. Members of the jury had been tasked with deciding whether Tsarnaev should be sentenced to life in prison or death.
Tsarnaev’s attorneys identified a slew of issues with his trial, but said in a brief filed with the court that the “first fundamental error” was the judge’s refusal to move the case out of Boston. They also pointed to social media posts from two jurors suggesting they harbored strong opinions even before the 2015 trial started.
The appeals judges, in a hearing on the case in early December, devoted a significant number of questions to the juror bias argument.
Tsarnaev’s lawyers say one of the jurors — who would go one to become the jury’s foreperson, or chief spokesperson — published two dozen tweets in the wake of the bombings. One post after Tsarnaev’s capture called him a “piece of garbage.”
Tsarnaev was convicted in April of 2015 on 30 charges, including conspiracy and use of a weapon of mass destruction.
He has confirmed that his older brother Tamerlan was behind the 2013 attack and that he “wanted to defend Islam from attack.”
Following the bombings, the FBI discovered that Tamerlan Tsarnaev had sent text messages to his mother as early as 2011 suggesting he was willing to die for Islam.
The interfaith group Americans for Peace and Tolerance said after the attack that the mosque attended by the two brothers “has a curriculum that radicalizes people.”
(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)