Washington: The US Supreme Court agreed Monday to consider whether to reinstate the death penalty for one of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombers - setting up a potential dilemma for President Joe Biden who opposes capital punishment.
The previous Donald Trump administration asked the high court to weigh in on the case after a federal appeals court overturned Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's death sentence.
Tsarnaev, 27, was 19 when he and his older brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev planted two homemade bombs near the finish line of the April 15, 2013 race, killing three people and injuring 264 others.
On the run, the two also killed a policeman. Tamerlan was then killed in a gunfight with police.
In 2015 Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was convicted on 30 counts and given the death penalty as well as sentences of life in prison.
The case was appealed on issues of alleged trial irregularities including in the jury.
In July 2020 the appeals court left in place most of the convictions but annulled the death sentence and ordered the lower court to hold a new sentencing trial with a new jury.
Trump, a strong advocate of capital punishment, had personally objected to the decision and urged the Justice Department to pursue the death penalty in the case.
"Rarely has anybody deserved the death penalty more than the Boston Bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev," he tweeted at the time.
In October the Justice Department, under the similarly pro-capital punishment attorney general Bill Barr, appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court.
The appeal gives the high court justices the choice of overturning the appeals court and reinstating Tsarnaev's death penalty, or supporting the move to send the sentencing back for reconsideration.
The court will not likely hear the case before its fall session beginning in September, and a ruling might not come before 2022.
It was not clear how Biden's Justice Department, given his stance against executions in federal cases, would weigh in on the case pursued by the previous administration.