During his presidential campaign in 2020, Joe Biden had called for an end to capital punishment and his administration’s response on the issue is being awaited since he became the president in January 2021.
In February 2021, The Associated Press had reported that 82 advocacy groups had asked President Biden to end the death penalty. The report had said that Mr Biden had discussed the possibility of instructing the Department of Justice (DOJ) to stop scheduling new executions.
But on Monday, the DOJ requested the US Supreme Court to reinstate the death penalty against the Boston Marathon bomber.
“The jury carefully considered each of respondent’s crimes and determined that capital punishment was warranted for the horrors that he personally inflicted - setting down a shrapnel bomb in a crowd and detonating it, killing a child and a promising young student, and consigning several others to a lifetime of unimaginable suffering,” said the DOJ’s document submitted to the Supreme Court.
It said that the “determination by 12 conscientious jurors deserves respect and reinstatement by this court.”
“The court of appeals improperly vacated the capital sentences recommended by the jury in one of the most important terrorism prosecutions in our Nation’s history. This Court should reverse the decision below and put this case back on track toward a just conclusion,” the DOJ argued in the document.
In April 2013, during the Boston marathon, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his brother Tamerlan carried out an explosion near the finish line which resulted in the death of three people and injuries to over 200 people.
While Tamerlan was killed in a shootout with police, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was convicted of 30 charges in 2015 and sentenced to death but an appeals court vacated the death sentence in July 2020.
But in October 2020, former President Donald Trump’s administration had appealed against the decision and in March 2021, the US Supreme Court said it would hear an appeal to reinstate the death sentence.
In July 2019, the Trump administration announced reinstating the federal death penalty after a pause of nearly 20 years and during his term 13 federal inmates were executed.
Though Mr Biden has talked about ending the death penalty, the DOJ is seeking its reinstatement.
Equal Justice USA, an organisation working to transform the justice system, tweeted: “The president has the power - right now - to ensure that our nation won’t execute any human being any time soon by commuting all death penalty sentences. He “could do that tomorrow with the stroke of the pen.” Stop the trauma.”
The organisation said that at present there are 46 people on federal death row but the president can commute their sentences. It said, in an online petition, that “since 1973, at least 185 people across the US have been wrongly sentenced to death and exonerated. But those are just the cases we know of.”
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies