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The Supreme Court agreed Monday to evaluate the possibility of restoring the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the perpetrators of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, in a case that could be key to the debate over that type of sentence in the country.
The country’s highest court announced that it will consider a Justice Department appeal of an Appeals Court decision, which last July eliminated the capital sentence that had been imposed on Tsarnaev for his role in that attack, which killed three people and injured more than 260 others.
It was the government of former President Donald Trump who appealed to the Supreme Court in October with the aim of restoring the death penalty for Tsarnaev, as part of a campaign to revitalize the use of this type of sentence, in decline in the United States.
The new president, Joe Biden, has promised to abolish the death penalty for crimes tried at the federal level and to encourage states to do the same, but his team has not withdrawn the previous executive’s petition to the Supreme Court in Tsarnaev’s case.
If the Supreme Court decides that Tsarnaev’s death sentence can be reinstated, the Biden administration will be left in an awkward position, as it is under great pressure from progressive activists to end such sentencing at the federal level.
The Supreme Court is not expected to hold a hearing on this case until its next term, which begins in October, and will not decide the issue likely until May or June 2022.
Tsarnaev was sentenced to 20 life sentences in addition to the death penalty, so he will remain in prison for life whatever the Supreme Court decides.
There were more executions at the federal level in 2020 than in all states combined, unheard of in the country’s history.
In addition, the 10 executions completed at the federal level last year made that period the most federal death penalty sentences carried out in 125 years, since 1896, according to DPIC data.
Twenty-two of the nation’s 50 states have now abolished capital punishment domestically, while 12 others have gone more than 10 years without carrying out an execution, according to the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC).