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Thursday, January 30, 2014

U.S. Prosecutors Seek Execution Of Marathon Suspect

Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev is pictured at his 2011 graduation from Cambridge Rindge and Latin, a public high school in Cambridge, Mass. (Courtesy: Robin Young/Here & Now)

Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev is pictured at his 2011 graduation from Cambridge Rindge and Latin, a public high school in Cambridge, Mass. (Courtesy: Robin Young/Here & Now)

Federal prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in the Boston Marathon bombing.

The final decision was made by Attorney General Eric Holder and was announced Thursday. The twin blasts in April killed three people and wounded more than 260 in one of the most prominent terrorist attacks in the U.S since 9/11.

Prosecutors allege that Tsarnaev and his brother, Tamerlan, ethnic Chechens from Russia who had lived in the Boston area for about a decade, planted two pressure cooker bombs near the finish line. Tamerlan Tsarnaev died in a shootout with police.

Seventeen of 30 charges against Tsarnaev carry the possibility of the death penalty, including using a weapon of mass destruction to kill.

The 20-year-old Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty. No trial date has been set.

David Boeri of Here & Now contributor station WBUR in Boston joins Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson with details.




This news just in from the Justice Department: Federal prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty against the surviving Boston Marathon bombing suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. He's 20 years old. His brother, Tamerlan, died after a shootout with police four days after the bombings.

Joining us now with the details is David Boeri with WBUR, here in Boston. David, is this a surprise?

DAVID BOERI, BYLINE: Not at all a surprise, Jeremy. This has been widely expected for quite some time. The U.S. attorney in Boston was expected to make a filing. That was done. It was sealed. And this leads - this follows her recommendation, but it's made by the U.S. attorney, Eric Holder. He said today in a statement, after filing this request that they intend to seek the death penalty: The nature of the conduct at issue ,and the resultant harm compel this decision.

And of course, what he's talking about is, by now, a notorious incident on marathon day in Boston, in which 260 people were wounded. Three were killed in the initial blast, and an officer was killed in the hunt for the two brothers that followed that. All of the (technical difficulties) pressure-cooker bomb.

HOBSON: And Dzhokhar, the younger brother who is in this case here, pleaded not guilty, right?

BOERI: That's right. He pleaded not guilty. Part of the case against him in - that has been made is that in fact, inside the boat in which he was found - the boat that had been shot into, that was in that neighborhood in Watertown - there was writing inside in the boat in which he said, "The U.S. government is killing our innocent civilians." I'm quoting from what the government has purported. "I can't stand to see such evil go unpunished." Also, "We Muslims are one body. You hurt one, you hurt us all."

That was some of the writing. And the interesting thing - there are a number of these charges here that the government says are all eligible for the death penalty. There's some six offenses they've listed in this filing that are eligible for the death penalty. And they list - and this is important, Jeremy. They list aggravating factors. There are a number of aggravating factors. One of them, if I may read, it's the selection of site for acts of terrorism. (Reading) Dzhokhar 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.

BOERI: That's counts through - 1 through 10, counts 12 through 15. A second aggravating factor that's listed here is lack of remorse.

HOBSON: David, does seeking the death penalty make a difference, when it comes to the case that the government has to make and prove against Tsarnaev?

BOERI: That's right because there are two phases in this trial, Jeremy, of this. First, it's whether or not he is guilty of the crimes as charged, and then there's a death penalty phase. And it - because, in fact, it is the ultimate in punishment, yes, there are extra demands and higher standards to be met.

HOBSON: Still a lot unanswered questions about this whole case. Are there things that you, as somebody who has covered this, think you may potentially learn during the trial, that you're waiting to hear about?

BOERI: There are an extraordinary number of unanswered questions here, and including what the brothers, or the older brother was doing in Russia, for instance - and a trip he went to Russia. And now, we have the government saying that in fact, they have evidence that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was involved in a triple murder, which was committed two years before the marathon day bombings.

HOBSON: In Florida.

BOERI: No. The triple murder occurred here in Waltham, Mass. So suddenly, you have information that he was committing violent crimes well before the marathon day bombings. And in addition, recently, an associate of his was shot to death during an interrogation, in which he gave that information up. There are lots of questions here.

HOBSON: David Boeri, here at WBUR in Boston, on the news - just in - that federal prosecutors will seek the death penalty against the surviving Boston Marathon bombing suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. David, thank so much.

BOERI: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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