The U.S. Supreme Courtroom will evaluate final summer season’s appeals courtroom resolution, which reversed Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s dying sentence and raised the prospect of a brand new trial based mostly on the problem of his sentence: life in jail or the dying penalty? GBH Morning Version host Joe Mathieu spoke with Northeastern College regulation professor and GBH Information authorized analyst Daniel Medwed in regards to the resolution and its potential implications in different high-profile instances. The transcript under has been edited for readability.
Joe Mathieu: So that is your wheelhouse. I’m wondering if, initially, you have been shocked the Supreme [Court] granted evaluate of the case.
Daniel Medwed: Frankly, I used to be. For one factor, statistically, it is fairly uncommon for the Supreme Courtroom to listen to instances — to grant a writ of certiorari, because it’s known as. Out of seven,000 to eight,000 cert petitions filed annually, the Supreme Courtroom often accepts solely about 80, and fewer and fewer of them are prison regulation instances, a minimum of during the last ten years. Now, the percentages are a bit of bit higher when it is the federal government, not the defendant, searching for evaluate, as was the case right here. However nonetheless, it is a lengthy shot. For one more factor, the authorized points within the Tsarnaev case do not strike me as the standard ones that tickle the flamboyant of the Supreme Courtroom. Often, the courtroom’s fascinated by instances the place there is a break up within the regulation, the decrease courts are divided or the place the underlying difficulty has widespread ramifications throughout the nation, like abortion or same-sex marriage. This First Circuit resolution was actually in regards to the software of info to fairly well-settled First Circuit precedent about what ought to be achieved in jury choice in a excessive profile case and when mitigating proof will are available in in a dying penalty matter. So I wasn’t anticipating it, I am going to admit it.
Mathieu: What do you suppose, then? Does that imply the courtroom is fascinated by reinstating the dying sentence or it is simply such a excessive profile case they felt the necessity to sort out this?
Medwed: Yeah, it is so onerous to say as a result of the courtroom may be very cryptic when it grants cert like this. It seldom states the explanations and even identifies the names of the justices who have been intrigued by the case. We do know that there is broad assist for it as a result of at a minimal, it takes 4 justices to vote in favor to ensure that a cert petition to be granted evaluate. However I doubt it is in regards to the desirability of the dying penalty on the whole and even within the context of this case. My hunch is that some judges simply had misgivings in regards to the First Circuit opinion for no matter purpose, or perhaps they only wished to take a better have a look at one of many authorized points, in all probability that jury choice difficulty. To what extent should a trial decide leap by means of sure hoops in these infamous instances to create a good and neutral jury?
Mathieu: If the courtroom reversed the primary courtroom resolution right here, Daniel, what could be the precise impact? Does that imply Tsarnaev then is more likely to be executed?
Medwed: Nicely, if the trial consequence is reinstated, sure, that will imply that the dying sentence is again on the books. However we’re a great distance from the execution chamber as a result of Tsarnaev would produce other submit conviction treatments obtainable to him. For example, after the conclusion of the direct enchantment — the top of the Supreme Courtroom evaluate — he would have a full 12 months through which to file what’s known as a request for habeas corpus. He might return to federal courtroom and file one other problem. Additionally, he might go to the Biden administration and search clemency. He might ask Biden to commute his sentence to life in jail, which isn’t as far fetched as it might sound as a result of each Biden and Legal professional Common Merrick Garland have just lately gone on the document expressing considerations about inequities within the federal dying penalty course of.
Mathieu: So how in regards to the implications for different excessive profile instances, Daniel? Derek Chauvin’s trial in Minneapolis for killing George Floyd, as an illustration?
Medwed: This resolution might have wide-ranging ripple results relying on the exact nature of the opinion. If the Supreme Courtroom reverses the First Circuit resolution, reinstates the dying sentence and elaborates on what have to be achieved in jury choice in a excessive profile case, I believe that is a message that will be heard loud and clear throughout the nation, and definitely in Minneapolis. However I additionally simply wish to emphasize that it doesn’t matter what occurs, Tsarnaev goes to die in jail. It is only a query of whether or not he dies of pure causes or by execution as a result of this case is simply in regards to the sentence.