The Boston Bomber Spent Years Trying to Get off Death Row

Distractify Staff - Author

Apr. 11 2023, Updated 4:43 p.m. ET

Tamerlan Tsarnaev and  Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
Source: Getty Images

Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

For the past seven years, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev — the surviving Boston Marathon bomber — has been sitting in a supermax prison in Colorado. In 2015, the Kyrgyz-American terrorist was tried and convicted of planting two homemade pressure cooker bombs near the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon, which killed three people and injured approximately 280 others. Although Massachusetts had abolished the death penalty nearly 30 years prior, Tsarnaev was sentenced to death.

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Dzhokhar confessed to carrying out the bombings with his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev — who was injured in a police shootout four days after the terrorist attack and subsequently died at the hospital. Now, a decade later, Netflix is revisiting this tragedy in American Manhunt: The Boston Marathon Bombing. Since then, Dzhokhar tried to get off death row. Here's what happened to the Boston bomber.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev
Source: Netflix

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev

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What happened to the Boston bomber?

In December 2019, Dzhokhar’s lawyers argued that his death penalty sentence should be overturned on the grounds that their client didn't receive a fair trial. The appeal states that the trial should not have been held in Boston due to intense media coverage surrounding the case and claims there were multiple errors in jury selection.

The former nursing student’s legal team also asserted that the judge improperly excluded evidence demonstrating that Tamerlan was the clear mastermind behind the bombings and Dzhokhar had acted under his influence.

The appeal process could take years and effectively stall any plans for an execution. But according to Bob Hood, the former warden of the prison where Dzhokhar is being held, life in solitary confinement is far worse than death.

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"If you really look for punishment and retribution, you’re better off with him going to the supermax for the rest of his life," he told the Boston Herald following Dzhokhar’s appeal. "It’s way worse than getting a needle in the arm and expiring within minutes."

Hood revealed the bomber spends 23 hours a day in a 7-by-12-foot cell that contains a cement bed, desk, stool, metal toilet/sink, and a shower. "Trust me, he is going in the box of the box of the box of the box," the longtime correctional officer shared. "It’s not designed for humanity."

Boston bomber
Source: Getty Images
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If his sentencing is downgraded to life in prison, Hood said it’s unlikely Dzhokhar would ever be transferred to a different facility. "He’d be dead in 24 hours," the retired U.S. Department of Justice employee stated.

"The nature of his offense hits home with all the inmates, and there will always be someone out there who would love to smack this kid in the head. No one’s going to forget the marathon bomber," Hood said.

In July 2020, it was reported by CNN that a federal appeals court ruled to vacate Dzhokhar's death sentenced and "ruled to set aside three of his 30 convictions but said he will remain in federal prison for the rest of his life."

According to the appeals judges, "U.S. District Court Judge George O’Toole, who oversaw Tsarnaev’s trial, 'fell short' of his promise to question jurors thoroughly enough to identify the degree to which they had been exposed to facts of the case through media coverage, 'providing sufficient ground to vacate his death sentences.'"

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Dzhokhar's death sentence was reinstated by the Supreme Court.

In March 2021, the Supreme Court agreed to "review a lower court opinion that wiped away the death sentence of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev," per CNN. On March 4, 2022, the Supreme Court reinstated the death sentence for Dzhokhar in a 6-3 vote, per NPR. However, Dzhokhar will not be executed anytime in the near future.

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Although the Trump administration "ended a federal execution moratorium and executed 13 men sentenced to death on federal charges," the Biden administration "restarted the moratorium so that the Justice Department can conduct a thorough review of the department's policies and procedures."

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev expressed remorse before he was sentenced to death.

Though he remained silent throughout most of the trial, Dzhokhar admitted his guilt and offered up an apology before his sentence was handed down on June 24, 2015. "If there is any lingering doubt, let there be no more. I did it, along with my brother," he said, adding, "I ask Allah to have mercy on me, my brother, and my family."

In response to the victim impact statements read earlier in the day, Dzhokhar said, "I am sorry for the lives that I've taken, for the suffering that I've caused you, for the damage that I've done. Irreparable damage … I pray for your relief, for your healing, for your well-being, for your strength."

American Manhunt: The Boston Marathon Bombing is available to stream April 12 on Netflix.

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