January 24, 2023
This April will mark ten years since then 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his brother Tamerlan detonated two homemade bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring hundreds of others. By the time authorities captured Dzhokhar some three days later, he and his brother had murdered a campus police officer, kidnapped a graduate student and fought a street battle with police. Tamerlan died in the firefight, run over by his brother with a stolen car.
Considering that he admitted guilt, Dzhokhar was, unsurprisingly, found guilty of a multitude of charges after the “guilt phase” of the trial. Following the “penalty phase,” the jury returned with a recommendation that he be executed, and the trial judge accepted the recommendation.
The death penalty verdict was later overturned on appeal, but that decision was, in turn, overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Dzhokhar’s case was back before the First Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this month, as his lawyers contended that jury misconduct tainted the panel’s recommendation. And they appear to have a point.
As it turns out, two of the jurors made what appear to be material misrepresentations (or what most people call “lies”) to the court during jury selection when they said that they hadn’t discussed the case on social media. In fact, the juror who ended up as foreperson had published 22 tweets in which she praised the police, grieved the victims and suggested that Tsarnaev was a “piece of garbage.” She also lied about whether she had sheltered in place during a police search.
Meanwhile, a second juror claimed that he hadn’t discussed the case on Facebook and that none of his Facebook friends had commented on the trial, but while at the courthouse he started a Facebook discussion during which a friend urged him to “play the part,” “get on the jury” and send Dzhokhar “to jail where he will be taken care of.”
If the First Circuit finds for Dzhokhar (and the U.S. Supreme Court doesn’t thereafter reverse), it will likely mean another penalty phase. Jury selection for the first trial consumed 21 days, and involved 1,373 potential jurors, and the evidence portion of the penalty phase took a full month.
If Dzhokhar is not executed, he will spend the rest of his days in the Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado. That facility currently houses Ramzi Yousef, Zacarias Moussaoui, Ted Kaczynski and Richard Reid. In the words of Robert Hood, who was the warden there for three years in the early 2000’s, a life sentence there is “far much worse than death.”
And if you read THIS report by Amnesty International, you’d probably be inclined to agree.