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Kavanaugh, Kagan Clash In Testy Exchange In Boston Bomber Case

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OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion


U.S. Supreme Court Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Elena Kagan got into a testy exchange on Wednesday when debating whether to hear an appeal on the case involving the Boston Bomber.

Kavanaugh, a conservative, clashed with Kagan, a liberal, when considering whether an appeals court was justified in overturning Boston Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s death sentence.

“Tsarnaev was sentenced to death for his role in the 2013 bombings, which he carried out along with his brother Tamerlan, who died while attempting to flee the police shortly after the attack. The district court’s 2015 death sentence was overturned by an appeals court over alleged improper handling of the jury’s media consumption and the court’s exclusion of allegedly mitigating evidence during the sentencing phase,” Fox News reported.

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“Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Kagan grilled government lawyer Eric Feigin specifically about mitigating evidence the defense was not allowed to introduce: that Tamerlan may have been involved in a jihad-related triple-murder two years before the Boston Bombing. This evidence was relevant, the defense said, because it bolstered its argument that Dzhokhar would not have committed the bombing if it weren’t for his domineering older brother’s influence,” Fox News added.

“Your entire case rests on the notion that the evidence just wasn’t strong enough,” Kagan said. “How is it the job of the district court to evaluate, much less decide that question?”

Kavanaugh joined the discussion by criticizing his colleagues for wanting to assume the evidence that Tamerlan was involved in the triple-murder was strong.

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Kavanaugh argued that the district court chose to exclude certain evidence against Tamerlan but it was “weak,” so he didn’t think it made sense to approach the case that way from the Supreme Court’s perspective.

Kagan shot back: “The premise was assumed away because that was the role of the jury.”

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The Supreme Court is considering arguments from the U.S. Justice Department about reinstating a death sentence against Tsarnaev.

The prospect of a death sentence for Tsarnaev, who carried out the bombing with his now-deceased older brother Tamerlan, has become a hot-button issue in the courts.

Elizabeth Norden, whose sons JP and Paul lost legs in the bombing, said she supports Tsarnaev getting the death penalty.

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“I’m not an eye for an eye. I’m not that type of person. I struggle with, how do you want to take somebody’s life?” she said. “But there’s not a shadow of a reasonable doubt what he and his brother did.”

“Will it change my life? Will there ever be closure, absolutely not,” she said. “For me, as a mother, I have suffered the deepest sadness for my sons … How do you ever really let go of something like that? Whether he comes up in the news every single day or not, I watch my sons put their legs on.”

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