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Appeals court orders judge to probe claims of juror bias in Boston Marathon bomber’s case

Mar 21, 2024, 2:48 PM

BOSTON (AP) — A federal appeals court on Thursday ordered Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s case to be returned to a lower court to probe claims of juror bias and determine whether his death sentence should stand.

The ruling from the Boston-based 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals keeps intact Tsarnaev’s death sentence for now. But the judge’s found that further investigation is needed to determine whether two jurors should have been stricken for biases.

If the lower court’s investigation reveals either person should have been disqualified, the court should vacate Tsarnaev’s death sentence and hold a new penalty-phase trial to determine whether he should sentenced to death, the court said.

“And even then, we once again emphasize that the only question in any such proceeding will be whether Tsarnaev will face execution; regardless of the outcome, he will spend the rest of his life in prison,” the court said.

The Boston-based appeals court issued its ruling more than two years after the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the sentence imposed on 30-year-old Tsarnaev for his role in the bombing that killed three people and injured hundreds near the marathon’s finish line in 2013.

The 1st Circuit took another look at the case after Tsarnaev’s lawyers urged it to examine issues the Supreme Court didn’t consider. Among them was whether the trial judge wrongly forced the trial to be held in Boston and wrongly denied defense challenges to seating two jurors they say lied during questioning.

The appeals court first overturned Tsarnaev’s death sentence in 2020 and ordered a new penalty-phase trial to decide whether he should be executed. The court found then that the trial judge did not sufficiently question jurors about their exposure to extensive news coverage of the bombing. The Supreme Court justices voted 6-3 in 2022 when they ruled that the 1st Circuit’s decision was wrong.

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Appeals court orders judge to probe claims of juror bias in Boston Marathon bomber’s case