U.S. to seek death penalty in Boston bombing case
The Justice Department will seek the death penalty against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 20-year-old man accused of bombing the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring more than two hundred others in April, according to a former U.S official briefed on the decision.
U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s decision ends months of speculation in the case. If Holder had instead sought life in prison instead, it might have fueled Republicans attacks that the administration and the attorney general were soft on terrorism.
Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan, who was killed in a shootout with police. constructed and set off homemade bombs near the finish line of the marathon, according to investigators.
Tsarnaev faces 30 counts in the bombing, including use of a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death and the bombing of a public place.
He is also accused of the murder of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer in the days after the bombing.
Since 1964, the federal government has only executed three people, including Timothy McVeigh who was convicted in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
Holder last week repeated his personal opposition to the death penalty, but he has sought it in other cases.
Before making a decision, Holder took recommendations from a staffer in his office, Channing Phillips; the Justice Department’s Capital Case Review Committee; Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole; and Carmen Ortiz, the U.S. attorney in Boston.
In an interview several months ago, Holder told The Washington Post that he would most likely make the decision late at night at his kitchen table, after reviewing all the information.
A spokeswoman for the Boston office declined to say what Ortiz recommended.
Lee Ann Yanni, 32, of Boston, who was wounded in the Boston Marathon attack, said she had mixed emotions about Holder’s decision.
“It’s not going to change what happened,” she said. “I really don’t think there is a right or wrong in this situation. It’s not going to bring anybody back.”
In May, a Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 70 percent of those surveyed favored the death penalty in the Boston case.
A trial date has not been set for Tsarnaev who was badly injured while trying to escape a massive dragnet of FBI agents and local police officers.
Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan, who was killed in a shootout with police, are accused of constructing and setting off homemade bombs near the finish line of the marathon.
Many of the victims like Yanni suffered wounds to their legs because of where the bombs the placed; sixteen victims had to have legs amputated.
The attack strained relations with Russia after security officials in Moscow had alerted the FBI to its suspicions that one of the brothers was an Islamic radical in touch with militants in the Caucuses. But Russian officials didn’t provide additional information that might have led the bureau to a launch a more serious investigation.
In 2011, FBI agents conducted what is known as an assessment and then closed the case after failing to uncover any indication the two brothers were engaged in terrorism. The FBI interviewed the older brother and other family members but found no evidence that either of the man had become dangerously radicalized and posed a threat.
A senior U.S. intelligence official said recently there was no evidence that the two brothers, ethnic Chechen refugees , had any assistance from overseas terrorists in carrying out their plan.
The brothers came to the U.S. in 2002 from the Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan.
The brothers became disaffected while living in the U.S. The older Tsarnaev saw a promising boxing career fade while his brother dropped out of community college.
Authorities have said Tamerlan Tsarnaev had come under the influence of radical Islam and likely recruited his brother to help him do the bombing.
After the bombing, investigators also linked the older brother to a gruesome triple homicide in Waltham, Massachusetts on the 10th anniversary of 9/11.