The 1st Circuit Court of Appeal overturned his death sentence on the grounds that the trial judge had not done enough to ensure an impartial jury in the high-profile case, and because the judge did not allow the jury to hear evidence that Tamerlan had murdered three people before the bombing. Dzhokhar had argued that he had been under the control and influence of his older brother, a violent murderer.
The appeal court did not overturn Tsarnaev’s conviction, only the death sentence; by virtue of his decision, he would have remained in prison for the rest of his life. Given Biden’s opposition to capital punishment, there was no reason to seek to reinstate the death penalty.
In addressing the Supreme Court, the administration had to conduct a re-examination of the case and decide that a death sentence was appropriate for Tsarnaev, despite the appeals court’s careful analysis of the serious shortcomings of the sentencing phase. In fact, the Justice Department, in its submissions and submissions to the Supreme Court, failed to provide any convincing explanation as to why execution is warranted in this case compared to other cases.
This failure gets to the heart of the matter: there is no principled way to decide when capital punishment is warranted, which is why every application is inevitably arbitrary.
Judge Stephen G. Breyer called this arbitrariness the antithesis of the rule of law. “The factors that should most clearly affect the application of the death penalty – namely the relative gravity of the crime – often do not,” he wrote. “Other studies show that circumstances which should not affect the application of the death penalty, such as race, gender or geography, often do. “