Th United States Justice Department said Thursday that Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnev will face the death penalty, if he is convicted of his role in the April 15, 2013, terror attack.
Tsarnev is accused of being one of two men who planted homemade pressure-cooker bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon last year. The dual bombing killed three people and injured more than 260 others, some severely.
Sixteen of the victims required their legs to be amputated. Because the makeshift bombs were placed on the ground amidst a crowd of marathon spectators, many of the non-fatal injuries were to the legs of victims.
Dzhokhar Tsarnev was only 19 years old when the bombings took place. He has entered a not guilty plea in the case.
“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,” said United States Attorney General Eric Holder, in the announcement of his decision. “The nature of the conduct at issue and the resultant harm compel this decision.”
The other man involved in the bombing was Tsarnev’s older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnev, who was 26. But the older Tsarnev brother was killed in a shootout with law enforcement four days after the bombings as the brothers tried to make an escape with police closing in on them.
In the process, they murdered a campus police officer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sean Collier, 27, as they tried to steal the officer’s gun from him.
Dzhokhar Tsarnev is charged with Collier’s murder as well as 30 counts related to the bombing, which not only sent the entire Boston area into shock, but sparked a new debate about domestic terrorism within the United States.
The younger, surviving Tsarnev brother is an American citizen, and Tamerlan Tsarnev had a citizenship application pending when he was killed. The brothers came to the United States with their family in 2002, from Kyrgyzstan. Authorities believe that the older brother was drawn in recent years to radical Islam and that Dzhokhar Tsarnev came under his influence.
Experts have speculated that Dzhokhar Tsarnev’s defense lawyers will argue that he would not have committed the Boston Marathon bombings had his older brother not influenced him, an argument that might spare him the death penalty sought by the United States prosecutors.
The United States last carried out the death penalty in June of 2001, when both Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and drug trafficker and murderer Juan Garza were executed by lethal injection.