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Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

The Department of Justice on Monday night asked the Supreme Court to reinstate the death penalty for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Why it matters: Biden is the first sitting president to publicly oppose the death penalty and has said he wants to end its use.

  • The Biden administration's action on the appeal to the Supreme Court, which was launched following a request from former President Trump last year, was highly anticipated.
  • White House spokesperson Andrew Bates referred Axios to the DOJ "which has independence regarding such decisions."
  • "Prior to the Trump administration, from 2003 until July 2020, not a single execution was carried out by the Department of Justice," Bates said. "The President believes the Department should return to its prior practice, and not carry out executions."

The big picture: Tsarnaev and his brother killed three people and wounded hundreds of others after planting bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon in 2013.

  • He's serving a life sentence after an appeals court last year dismissed his death sentence, finding that the judge in his 2015 trial failed to guarantee a fair jury due to extensive media coverage.
  • But the DOJ stated in a 48-page brief Monday that the appeals court "improperly vacated the capital sentences recommended by the jury in one of the most important terrorism prosecutions in our Nation’s history," arguing that the Supreme Court "should reverse the decision ... and put this case back on track toward a just conclusion."
"The jury carefully considered each of respondent's crimes and determined that capital punishment was warranted for the horrors that he personally inflicted — setting down a shrapnel bomb in a crowd and detonating it, killing a child and a promising young student, and consigning several others to a lifetime of unimaginable suffering."
— Excerpt from the DOJ's brief

Of note: White House press secretary Jen Psaki wouldn't be drawn on how Biden or his administration would approach the case after the Supreme Court agreed last March to consider reinstating the death penalty for Tsarnaev.

  • "He has grave concerns about whether capital punishment as currently implemented is consistent with the values that are fundamental to our sense of justice and fairness," Psaki said at the time, per AP.
  • "He has also expressed his horror at the events of that day and Tsarnaev’s actions."

This post has been updated with comment from a White House spokesperson.

Go deeper

Court dismisses gun rights ruling for those under 21

Weapons on display at a gun shop in Manassas, Virginia. Photo: Yasin Ozturk / Anadolu Agency

A federal appeals court on Wednesday dismissed a July ruling that said laws restricting gun sales to those under 21 were unconstitutional because the case's plaintiff turned 21.

Why it matters: The previous ruling could have had implications for efforts to restrict gun sales nationally in the future, the Washington Post reported. But the case is now moot. 

DOJ sues American Airlines, JetBlue to block "unprecedented" alliance

Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Justice Department on Tuesday sued American Airlines and JetBlue to block an "unprecedented series of agreements" that will consolidate the two airlines' operations in Boston and New York City.

Why it matters: The civil antitrust complaint alleges that the planned Northeast Alliance (NEA) "will cause hundreds of millions of dollars in harm to air passengers across the country through higher fares and reduced choice," the DOJ said in a release.

Most teachers are white. Most students aren't.

Expand chart
Data: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics; Chart: Baidi Wang/Axios

The nation's 6.6 million teacher workforce has grown more racially and ethnically diverse over the past three decades — but not nearly fast enough to keep pace with a student population that's nearing majority-minority in public schools, two new reports show.

Why it matters: The disparities are especially acute between Hispanic students and teachers, and in schools with 90% or higher non-white student populations.