|"Supermax" prison in Florence, Colorado|
BOSTON — Lawyers for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are heading to court to urge a judge to grant him a new trial.
Judge George O’Toole Jr. is scheduled to hear arguments Tuesday in U.S. District Court, but only on the portion of Tsarnaev’s motion related to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling issued after Tsarnaev’s trial.
Three people were killed and more than 260 others were injured when twin bombs placed near the marathon finish line exploded on April 15, 2013. Tsarnaev was convicted of 30 federal charges and sentenced to death for his role in the attack.
Tsarnaev’s lawyers argue that a Supreme Court ruling in June puts 15 of his convictions in jeopardy. The ruling centered on the legal definition of a “crime of violence,” a distinction that can carry stiffer penalties. The court struck down part of the definition as unconstitutionally vague.
Tsarnaev’s defense team says the ruling requires throwing out Tsarnaev’s convictions on those 15 counts. They also say he should get a new trial to decide his punishment because the jury’s imposition of the death penalty on other counts likely was influenced by the 15 counts related to crimes of violence.
“The defense is urging that the (Supreme Court) decision should be a catalyst to reopening the entire penalty phase. The argument is that these convictions are in jeopardy and that those counts somehow clouded the jury’s judgment on the death-eligible sentences, therefore, all of the sentences should be looked at again,” said Daniel Medwed, a professor at Northeastern University School of Law.
During the trial, Tsarnaev’s lawyers admitted that he and his older brother carried out the bombings, but said his brother was the mastermind and Dzhokhar did not deserve the death penalty.
Tsarnaev, 22, is being held at the federal Supermax prison in Colorado. He will not be brought to Massachusetts for the hearing.
In their motion for a new trial, Tsarnaev’s lawyers also argue that he deserves a trial in a different location because jurors in greater Boston could not be impartial due to intense pretrial publicity, local outrage over the attack and heavy media coverage during the trial of events marking the second anniversary of the bombings and the people who were injured.
The judge also will hear a motion from prosecutors to order Tsarnaev to pay restitution to the victims.
Source: The Washington Post, The Associated Press, December 1, 2015