[3/31/21] – Boston Marathon Bomber’s Case to be Heard by the Supreme Court Next Term

The United States Supreme Court, on Monday, March 22nd,  announced that it will hear Boston bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s case and that it will consider reinstating the death penalty.

In 2013, Tsarnaev and his brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev, detonated two homemade pressure cooker bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The bombs killed three people and injured hundreds of others. While the older Tsarnaev was killed in the days following the bombing, the younger Tsarnaev was subsequently charged and received six death sentences and eleven concurrent life sentences in 2015. In July 2020, the six death penalty sentences were thrown out by a panel of three judges on the 1st  U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals who ruled that the trial judge in the case had not properly questioned the prospective jurors about their exposure to the pretrial media coverage. The Department of Justice, under former President Trump, appealed the ruling not long after the Circuit Court’s decision, leading to the Court’s decision this month to hear the case. Although, the Supreme Court is expected to hear the case next term, which begins in October 2021, the outcome of the case is likely to be contentious as it is unclear how President Biden and his administration will approach the case. Tsarnaev had been sentenced to death when President Biden served as Vice President under the Obama administration. However, President Biden, while on the campaigntrail, promised to abolish the federal death penalty and to encourage states to follow suit. In a press briefing on the day of the Supreme Court’s announcement, White House Press Secretary, Jen Psaki, stated that President Biden had “grave concerns” about the implementation of the death penalty, but that “he also expressed his horror at the ends of that day and Tsarnaev’s actions.” Psaki further stated that she had no updates on the Biden administration’s stance on the case.  

Instructors, click on the link below to download this week’s lecture for use in your classroom.

The deck contains a writing prompt, a debate question, as well as other assessment questions.



  • Writing: Explain how the Tsarnaev case presents a challenge for the Biden administration. 
  • Debate: Do you believe that the trial judge should have let defense lawyers ask potential jurors detailed questions about what they may have seen in news reports of the bombings?
  • Poll: The U.S. Supreme Court should reinstate the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s death penalty sentences. (Agree or Disagree).
  • Short Answer: Discuss the importance of an impartial jury and how the lack of one can result in legal challenges. 

Cover Image: © iStockphoto.com/YingYang

Which component of the criminal justice system would you like to see more coverage of in future Lecture Sparks?

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