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Sentenced to Death Boston Marathon Bomber Tsarnaev May Live for Decades

© AFP 2023A man looks in Moscow on April 19, 2013, at a computer screen displaying an undated picture the 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev posted on his is page in VKontakte, a Russian social media site
A man looks in Moscow on April 19, 2013, at a computer screen displaying an undated picture the 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev posted on his is page in VKontakte, a Russian social media site - Sputnik International
Laura Rovner, University of Denver College of Law professor, said that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev sentenced to death for his role in the April 2013 Boston Marathon could spend potentially at least the next 50 years in isolation.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — A jury in federal US court sentenced Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death on Friday for his role in the April 2013 Boston Marathon terrorist attack, but his fate may be far from sealed.

Although the US Bureau of Prisons is yet to decide where to send Tsarnaev to await his execution, two maximum security prisons are floated by officials: the US Penitentiary, Administrative Maximum Facility (ADX) in Florence, Colorado or the US Penitentiary, Terre Haute in Indiana.

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A former lawyer who represented ADX prisoners in the past said its conditions are worse than the infamous Guantanamo Bay detention camp for suspected terrorists in Cuba.

"He's presumably going to be alive for a long time. He's looking at spending potentially at least the next 50 years in isolation. It's almost unfathomable," Laura Rovner, University of Denver College of Law professor, told CNN on Thursday.

ADX houses several terror suspects, including 1993 World Trade Center bombing mastermind Ramzi Yousef; September 11, 2001 organizer Zacarias Moussaoui; and the 1978-1995 "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski.

"The Supermax [super-maximum security prison] is life after death. It's long term… In my opinion, it's far much worse than death," CNN quoted former ADX warden Robert Hood as saying.


US legislation affords a person sentenced to death several avenues of appealing their conviction.

Boston Police commissioner William Evans addresses the media after the verdict in the penalty phase of the trial of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Friday, May 15, 2015 - Sputnik International
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According to the Capital Punishment in Context portal, Tsarnaev's team of lawyers can file a direct appeal to a panel of federal judges, who can uphold or reverse his conviction or even the death sentence itself. In case of a loss, prosecutors or defendants can petition the US Supreme Court for judicial review known as writ of certiorari.

The Boston Marathon bomber's final three-stage part of the appeals process is the habeas corpus writ, which allows federal death row inmates to bring up topics not covered in the initial trial. Tsarnaev's legal team is expected to appeal first to the US District Court, then to the US Court of Appeals, if allowed by the previous judicial body.

His last and final way of escaping the death penalty, save for executive clemency granted by a state governor or other high-ranking official, is the US Supreme Court's irreversible decision.


According the US Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics, a death row inmate had to wait an average of 15.5 years to be executed. In 1985, the waiting time from sentencing to execution was just under 6 years.

FiveThirtyEight reports federal and state courts have sentenced nearly 8,500 Americans to death since 1973, but less than 16 percent of death row inmates have actually been executed. The statistical analysis website added that only three people sentenced in federal court between 1988 and 2013 were executed.

Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is shown in a courtroom sketch after he is sentenced at the federal courthouse in Boston, Massachusetts May 15, 2015 - Sputnik International
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Capital punishment is considered legal in a total of 32 states after its reinstatement in 1976 following a four-year suspension by the Supreme Court. A total of 35 people have been executed in the United States last year and nearly 1,400 executions have been carried out in the last four decades.

The Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) lists 38 pending executions in the 2015-2018 period, with nearly all of this year's death sentences put off.

On a federal level, DPIC data shows only 37 people have been executed since 1927, with the latest death sentence being carried out in 2003. Timothy McVeigh, the 1995 Oklahoma City bomber who briefly served time at ADX before being transferred to Terre Haute after his sentencing, was the last terror suspect to be put to death in 2001.

As of now, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev joins a list of 61 death row inmates awaiting execution.

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