Federal prosecutors on Thursday announced they will seek the death penalty against 20-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in the Boston Marathon bombing, instantly raising the stakes in what could be one of the most wrenching trials the city has ever seen.
Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to press for Tsarnaev's execution was widely expected. The twin blasts killed three people and wounded more than 260 others, and 17 of the 30 federal charges against him — including using a weapon of mass destruction to kill — carry the possibility of the death penalty.
"The nature of the conduct at issue and the resultant harm compel this decision," Holder said in a statement.
Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty. A trial date has not been set.
According to local, state and federal investigators, 19 year old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his 26 year old brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev planted two bombs fashioned from pressure cookers and loaded with ball bearings and set them a few hundred feet apart at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Patriots Day last year- April 15th. Three people were killed in the blasts and more than 200 were injured by flying shrapnel and the two brothers were seen on surveillance cameras from nearby businesses arriving at the finish line with backpacks and leaving without them shortly before the blasts. During the manhunt after the bombings, the two brothers shot and killed an MIT Campus police officer in an ambush, carjacked a motorist and led police on a wild chase that culminated in a firefight in Watertown, MA. During the shootout, an MBTA Transit police officer was wounded and Tamerlan was run over by his own brother in a bid to escape. The younger Tsarnaev brother initially appeared to have evaded the dragnet, but a Watertown homeowner spotted blood on a tarp covering a boat in his backyard and immediately called police. After a shootout and tense standoff, officers from the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team and Massachusetts State Police Special Tactical Operations (STOP) surrounded the boat and took a wounded Dzhokhar Tsarnaev into custody.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev was also thought to be a suspect in a triple homicide in Waltham, MA in September 2011. A friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev- Ibragim Todashev- implicated himself and the older Tsarnaev brother in a statement to the FBI and Massachusetts State Police at his Florida condo. Law enforcement sources then claimed that a previously cooperative Tosahev eventually became belligerent and attempted to stab one of the agents before being fatally shot.The two brothers originally hailed from Chechnya- a volatile, Islamic majority region in the south of Russia that has been fighting against Russian troops in a bid to break away from the Kremlin. Islamic Chechen fighters have been fighting in Afghanistan as well as the recent conflicts in Libya and Syria while Chechen terrorists are said to be behind a series of suicide attacks on buses and train stations in the Russian city of Volgograd last month that killed more than 30 people.