BOSTON – A lawyer for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on Thursday asked a federal appeals court to overturn his death sentence, saying it was handed down by a biased jury in a traumatized city with at least one member who discussed the case on social media.
Lawyer Daniel Habib argued before a three-judge panel in a Boston courthouse less than two miles from the site of the bombing that the publicity and manhunt leading to Tsarnaev’s capture in April 2013 biased the pool of jurors who joined the unanimous vote for the death penalty.
He noted that Tsarnaev’s defenders had asked the court to move the trial out of the city to avoid intense emotions that prompted one juror to tell a friend on social media that sitting in the courtroom with the suspect during jury selection was “legit crazy.”
That person was picked for the jury, which they then revealed to a friend on social media who advised them “play the part, get on the jury and send Tsarnaev to prison where he will be taken care of.”
Habib said that the judge had been alerted about the messages and seated the juror anyway, which he called “constitutionally intolerable.”
The then-19-year-old Tsarnaev and his 26-year-old brother Tamerlan sparked five days of panic in Boston when they detonated a pair of homemade pressure cooker bombs at the marathon’s finish line, killing three people and injuring more than 200.
The pair eluded capture for days, punctuated by a gunbattle with police in Watertown, Massachusetts, in which Tamerlan was killed. Boston and most of its suburbs were locked down for a day as armed officers and troops conducted a house-to-house search for Dzhokhar.
The city erupted in celebration after his capture, and Habib said, “This community atmosphere filtered to the actual jury.”
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