BOSTON (CBS/AP) – The U.S. Government will seek the death penalty against Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, federal officials announced on Thursday.
“After consideration of the relevant facts, the applicable regulations and the submissions made by the defendant’s counsel, I have determined that the United States will seek the death penalty in this matter. The nature of the conduct at issue and the resultant harm compel this decision,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.
Prosecutors say they have filed a required notice of intent to seek the death penalty.
“Today, United States Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. authorized the government to seek the death penalty in the case of United States v. Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev. We support this decision and the trial team is prepared to move forward with the prosecution,” U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said in a statement.
Officials allege that Tsarnaev, then 19, and his 26-year-old brother, ethnic Chechens from Russia who had lived in the Boston area for about a decade, built and planted two pressure cooker bombs near the finish line of the marathon in April to retaliate against the U.S. for its military action in Muslim countries. The twin blasts killed three people and wounded more than 260 others. The brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, died in a shootout with police during a getaway attempt days after the bombing.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Lana Jones Reports
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was wounded but escaped on foot and was later found hiding in a boat parked in a yard in a Boston suburb. Authorities have said he wrote about his motivation for the bombing on the inside of the boat.
“The US Government is killing our innocent civilians,” ”I can’t stand to see such evil go unpunished,” and “We Muslims are one body, you hurt one you hurt us all,” he allegedly wrote.
The Tsarnaev brothers had roots in the turbulent Russian regions of Dagestan and Chechnya, areas that have become recruiting grounds for Islamic extremists. The indictment alleges the brothers downloaded bomb-making instructions from an al-Qaida magazine and gathered material online about Islamic jihad and martyrdom.
Killed in the bombings were: Martin Richard, 8, of Boston; Krystle Campbell, 29, of Medford; and Lu Lingzi, 23, a Boston University graduate student from Shenyang, China. At least 16 others lost limbs. Among the reasons cited for seeking the death penalty, prosecutors noted where the bombings took place.
“Tsarnaev targeted the Boston Marathon, an iconic event that draws large crowds of men, women and children to its final stretch, making it especially susceptible to the act and effects of terrorism,” the feds’ notice of intent states.
Tsarnaev also is charged in the slaying of an MIT police officer and the carjacking of a motorist during the brothers’ getaway attempt before he was captured in Watertown April 19.
Many victims and family members did not want to comment on the announcement. Mother and daughter Celeste and Sydney Corcoran said they are just trying to move on.
“They have taken enough from us and many others and we trust in the U.S. legal system to do its job. Thank you for respecting our wishes to move on,” the statement read.
Krystle Campbell’s grandmother, Lillian Campbell, said she doesn’t think Tsarnaev should live but isn’t sure she supports the death penalty, even though she fears he will “end up living like a king” in prison.
“I don’t know, because it’s not going to bring her back,” she said. “I don’t even like to discuss it because it makes me so upset. She was my granddaughter and I miss her so much.”
Governor Patrick, a long time opponent of the death penalty, explained to WBZ Political Editor Jon Keller earlier on Thursday what he expected from the case.
“I think one way or another this young man is going to die in prison. And I think that given what has happened and why it happened and how it happened, I think that’s the right outcome,” he said.
Later, in a statement Patrick pointed out that the tragedy remains as a fresh scar in many minds.
“In each milestone of this case — today’s announcement, the trial and every other significant step in the justice process — the people hurt by the Marathon bombings and the rest of us so shocked by it will relive that tragedy,” Patrick said in the statement. “The best we can do is remind each other that we are a stronger Commonwealth than ever, and that nothing can break that spirit.”
Massachusetts abolished its state death penalty in 1984, and repeated efforts to reinstate it have failed. Tsarnaev is the third person in the state to be charged under the federal death penalty.
Since the federal death penalty was reinstated in 1988, 70 death penalty sentences have been imposed, but only three people have been executed, including Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh in 2001. Eight people have been taken off death row by a judicial or executive action, while 59 people remain on death row, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
The last federal execution was in 2003, when Louis Jones Jr. was put to death for the kidnapping and murder of 19-year-old Army Pvt. Tracie McBride.
Tsarnaev’s case has attracted a high-profile defense team, including Judy Clarke, a San Diego attorney who has negotiated plea agreements with prosecutors to spare her clients the death penalty, among them Unabomber Ted Kaczynski and Olympic Park bomber Eric Rudolph.
He has pleaded not guilty to a 30-count federal indictment, including a charge of using a weapon of mass destruction. A total of 17 of those charges against him carry the possibility of the death penalty.
Tsarnaev’s lead counsel, Federal Public Defender Miriam Conrad, told WBZ-TV that the defense team would not have a response to Thursday’s decision.
A trial date hasn’t been set. A status conference hearing is scheduled for February 12, 2014.
(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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