The United States Justice Department announced Thursday that prosecutors would seek the death penalty against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 20-year-old man who is accused of bombing the Boston Marathon last year, killing three people and injuring hundreds more.
In a short statement, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said, “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.”
Tsarnaev is one of two people charged with the construction and detonation of homemade bombs near the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon. The second was Tsarnaev’s older brother Tamerlan, who was killed in a shootout with police officers in April. Tsarnaev was captured the next day in a manhunt that held the city of Boston and surrounding neighborhoods, including Boston College, in a lockdown for a majority of the day.
Tsarnaev is charged with 30 counts in the bombing, including one for the use of a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death and another for the bombing of a public place. He is also accused of the murder of Sean Collier, an M.I.T. police officer who was killed as he sat in a marked M.I.T. cruiser.
Prosecutors explained their decision in an eight-page document filed in the federal court in Boston.
“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,” they wrote. They also cited the age of one of the victims, 8-year-old Martin Richard, in the decision to seek the death penalty.
While no trial date has been set, Tsarnaev has already pled not guilty to the charges. His defense team is lead by Judy Clarke, a lawyer who has represented Theodore J. Kaczinski, the Unabomber and Zacarias Moussaoui, a conspirator in the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
Carmen Ortiz, the US attorney for the District of Massachusetts, stated that prosecutors in Massachusetts supported the decision and that “the trial team is prepared to move forward.”