BOSTON — A federal appeals court on Friday overturned Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s death penalty sentence for helping carry out the 2013 attack, which killed three people and wounded more than 260 others.
The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston upheld much of Tsarnaev’s conviction but ordered a lower-court judge to hold a new trial strictly over what sentence Tsarnaev should receive for the death penalty-eligible crimes he was convicted of.
A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said his office is reviewing the decision and will have more to say “in the coming days and weeks.” A lawyer for Tsarnaev did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
U.S. Circuit Judge O. Rogeriee Thompson, writing for the court, said that the trial judge “fell short” in conducting the jury selection process and ensuring it could winnow out partial jurors exposed to pretrial publicity surrounding the high-profile case.
Tsarnaev and his older brother Tamerlan sparked five days of panic in Boston on April 15, 2013, when they detonated two homemade pressure cooker bombs at the marathon’s finish line and then went into hiding.
Three nights later, as they attempted to flee the city, they sparked a new round of terror in Boston when they hijacked a car and then shot dead Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer Sean Collier. Tsarnaev’s brother died later that night after a gunfight with police, which ended when Dzhokhar ran him over with a stolen car.
Police then locked down Boston and most surrounding communities for almost 24 hours, with heavily armed officers conducting house-to-house searches through the suburb of Watertown, where the surviving brother was found hiding in a dry-docked boat in a backyard.
A federal jury in 2015 found Tsarnaev guilty of all 30 counts he faced and later determined he deserved execution for a bomb he planted that killed 8-year-old Martin Richard and 23-year-old Chinese exchange student Lingzi Lu.
Tsarnaev’s lawyers argued the case should not have been tried in Boston, where potential jurors were exposed to heart-wrenching, wall-to-wall media coverage about the attacks and the victims, many of whom lost limbs.