By Suaida Firoze
Suaida Firoze is a senior at Clark University studying Economics and Business Management.
Dzhokar Tsarnaev was found guilty by the Federal District Court of Boston for having planned and executed the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013. He and his brother, the deceased Tamerlan Tsarnaev, planted two pressure-cooker bombs in the 2013 Boston Marathon, which took the lives of three and injured over two hundred individuals.
Last year Tsarnaev finally received his decision from the court. However, even though Judge George O’Toole is the federal district court of Massachusetts sentenced Tsarnaev on to six death sentences, twenty sentences of life in prison and four more sentences of seven to twenty-five years, there is still more legal work to be done, as the case could take years or decades more to make its way through the courts.  Tsarnaev’s lawyers have officially appealed the decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Initially Tsarnaev’s lawyers had asked Judge O’Toole for a new trial. However, the motion was denied and Tsarnaev was asked to pay over $101 Million in restitution to the victims.
Tsarnaev’s lawyers have filed a ‘direct appeal’ where they are directly raising questions against what happened in the trial.  Earlier this year Tsarnaev had requested a new trial in a different locale, because he and his lawyers believed that due to the emotional attachment to the location itself, this trial should not have been held in Boston or Massachusetts and that the media attention that came out of the trial’s venue created biases in the jury.  Initially when Tsarnaev received the death sentence, those following the case, from all sides weighed in with their opinions. The death penalty is not a popular verdict, especially not in Massachusetts. According to the Boston Globe, only three people have been executed at the federal level since Gregg v. Georgia, decided by the Supreme Court in 1976, upheld the use of the death penalty. One of them was Timothy McVeigh, who carried out the 1995 Oklahoma City terrorist bombing. 
The appeal to the First Circuit court seeks to overturn Tsarnaev’s death sentence and to take back the order that forces him to pay $101 million to the victim. These appeals were issued with the theory that Dzhokar was heavily influenced by his Tamerlan, who was considered the ‘Mastermind’ of their entire plan. However, given that Tamerlan Tsarnaev died while trying to flee from the authorities, he cannot be punished for his crimes. 
The defense case rests heavily upon the assumption that another venue for the trial could have caused a difference in the jury’s verdict. Given that this particular case has never been merely a concern for Boston, but also a concern for the whole nation, there may very well be no change in his sentence. However, given that this is the first of the appeals and the court has also ordered for many of the documents related to Tsarnaev’s case to be made public, the ultimate outcome of this appeal remains quite inconclusive.
A fair trial is a basic right for the accused and the victim. While the direct appeal filed by the defense rests on the fact that Tsarnaev did not receive an initial fair trial, so that many points of the case are open for reinterpretation, overturning his death sentence remains the most important aspect of this case. While Tsarnaev has admitted to his crimes and apologized for them in public, many other factors must be taken into consideration by the next jury if these appeals are to have any validity at all.
 Seelye, Katharine Q., and Jess Bidgood. "Breaking Silence, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Apologizes for Boston Marathon Bombing." The New York Times. 2015. Accessed February 04, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/25/us/boston-marathon-bombing-dzhokhar-tsarnaev.html?_r=0.
 "Lawyers for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Appeal Conviction to First Circuit." February 04, 2016. Accessed February 04, 2016. http://dailyfreepress.com/2016/02/04/dzhokhar-tsarnaev-appeal-official-court-of-appeals-first-circuit/.
 Lavoie, Denise. "Judge Rejects Tsarnaev's Appeal for a New Trial - The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram." The Portland Press Herald Maine Sunday Telegram Judge Rejects Tsarnaevs Appeal for a New Trial Comments. January 15, 2016. Accessed February 04, 2016. http://www.pressherald.com/2016/01/15/judge-rejects-tsarnaevs-appeal-for-a-new-trial/.
 Valencia, Milton, and Patricia Wen. "As Tsarnaev Reconvenes, Records Suggests Death Sentence Is the Exception - The Boston Globe." BostonGlobe.com. April 20, 2015. Accessed February 04, 2016. https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2015/04/20/tsarnaev-reconvenes-records-suggests-death-sentence-exception/4BWlHI1hZSPv6zG1CZAeQN/story.html.
 Reuters. "Boston Marathon Bomber's Lawyers Appeal His Conviction and Death Sentence." Business Insider. January 29, 2016. Accessed February 04, 2016. http://www.businessinsider.com/r-tsarnaev-lawyers-file-appeal-of-boston-marathon-bombing-conviction-2016-1.
Photo Credit: Flickr User Wally Gobetz
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