Charlie Buttrey

October 16, 2021

About 2 1/2 years ago, New Hampshire eliminated the death penalty. But the legislature didn’t make the law retroactive, so Michael Addison remains on death row as his appeals wend their way through the system.

I was reminded of this peculiar state of affairs when I read about Wednesday’s oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court regarding Boston Marathon co-conspirator Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was convicted of thirty criminal charges, including four counts of murder, and sentenced to death. The First Circuit Court of Appeals subsequently threw out the death sentence, and the U.S. government appealed.

I will be shocked if the Supreme Court doesn’t reverse the First Circuit, since the six conservative justices have rarely shown much sympathy to the legal and constitutional claims of death-row inmates. But I find the appeal itself peculiar. Why is the U.S. government seeking to have the Supreme Court reimpose the death penalty when Attorney General Merrick Garland imposed a moratorium on the federal death penalty, and President Biden vowed to end the death penalty altogether?

Or will Tsarnaev be the federal equivalent of Michael Addison in New Hampshire?

Asking for a friend.

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