Boston bomber death row appeal could take decades

Condemned to die for his part in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is likely to await his fate for years, if not decades, locked up in grim prisons under extreme conditions while his lawyers appeal his sentence.

The US Bureau of Prisons has not yet decided where Tsarnaev will go, but he is likely end up in one of two high-security detention facilities, Colorado’s ADX or Indiana’s Terre Haute, according to US district attorney for Massachusetts Carmen Ortiz.

First the judge will hold a hearing where he will formally pronounce the sentence, Ortiz said after a jury decided on Friday that Tsarnaev, 21, deserved the death penalty.

He will then pass into the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, which will determine where he should be held.


ADX, formerly known as the US Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility, is likely “the most punitive, rigid, prison in America,” as defence lawyer Judith Clarke put it during Tsarnaev’s trial, arguing for life in prison for her client.

Life at the Florence, Colorado, prison is so difficult that prosecutors had worried jurors would vote for it as the harsher of the two sentences available to them, death or life imprisonment without possibility of release.

Imprisonment at the US Penitentiary at Terre Haute would place Tsarnaev with other federal death row inmates and in the same complex where federal executions are carried out, said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Centre .

“Death row is supermax,” said Dunham. “It’s extremely, highly restricted.”


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