The US Justice Department has asked the Supreme Court to review an appellate court decision to vacate the death sentence for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who along with his brother planted homemade bombs near the finish of the 2013 Boston Marathon, killing three spectators and injuring hundreds.
“Our hope is that this will result in reinstatement of the original sentence and avoid a retrial of the death penalty phase,” US Attorney Andrew Lelling said in a statement Thursday.
Describing Tsarnaev as a “ideologically driven mass killer,” Lelling argued that the severity of his crimes puts him “in that narrow category of criminals for whom death is a proportional punishment.”
“Some have argued that executing Tsarnaev will not deter others from pursuing similar crimes. But, ultimately, this decision is not about deterrence. It is about justice.”
The step comes after a federal appeals court ruled last month that Tsarnaev should be given a new penalty phase trial, where a new set of jurors can again decide if he should be sentenced to death.
The court also ruled to set aside three of his 30 convictions but said he will remain in federal prison for the rest of his life.
“And just to be crystal clear: Because we are affirming the convictions (excluding the three … convictions) and the many life sentences imposed on those remaining counts (which Dzhokhar has not challenged), Dzhokhar will remain confined to prison for the rest of his life, with the only question remaining being whether the government will end his life by executing him,” read the opinion, authored by Circuit Judge Ojetta Rogeriee Thompson.
Tsarnaev was 19 when he and his brother, Tamerlan, who was 26, went to Boston’s Boylston Street shortly before 3 p.m. on April 15, 2013, to carry out their plot.
Surveillance video showed the brothers carrying pressure cooker bombs in backpacks and moving through the crowd near the marathon finish line in what federal prosecutors called a coordinated attack.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev set off the first bomb, a 6-quart pressure cooker that contained gunpowder, nails and BBs, prosecutors said. The bomb killed Krystle Campbell, a 29-year-old restaurant manager, and permanently injured several other people, who lost their legs.
The second pressure cooker bomb, carried in by Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, went off 12 seconds later and killed two people, Martin Richard and Lingzi Lu, a graduate student from China.