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article imageU.S. to seek death penalty for Boston bombing suspect Tsarnaev

By Yukio Strachan     Jan 30, 2014 in Crime
Boston - U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Thursday announced that he authorized federal prosecutors in Boston to seek the death penalty against accused Boston Marathon bomber suspect, Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev.
“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," Holder said in a statement about the decision. "The nature of the conduct at issue and the resultant harm compel this decision.”
Last November, US District Court Judge George A. O’Toole Jr. set a January 31 deadline for Holder to declare whether he would authorize federal prosecutors to seek the death penalty for the 20-year-old who is charged with using a weapon of mass destruction in the April 15, 2013 bombing, which killed three people and injured more than 260, Boston.com reported. He is also charged with using a firearm to intentionally kill Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Police Officer Sean Collier.
When a federal grand jury returned a 30-count indictment against Tsarnaev in June, seventeen of those charges were eligible for the death penalty. In July, Tsarnaev pleaded not guilty to each count.
Factors that justified the death penalty
In an eight-page "Notice of intent to seek the death penalty" document filed in federal court in Boston Thursday, prosecutors explained that some of the factors that justified a sentence of death included:
1. Intentional Killing. Tsarnaev intentionally killed Krystle Marie Campbell, Martin Richard, Lingzi Lu, and Officer Sean Collier.
2. Betrayal of the United States. Tsarnaev "received asylum from the United States; obtained citizenship and enjoyed the freedoms of a United States citizen; and then betrayed his allegiance to the United States by killing and maiming people in the United States," prosecutors wrote.
3. Lack of Remorse. Tsarnaev "demonstrated a lack of remorse."
4. Selection of Site for Acts of Terrorism. 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," according to court papers.
No trial date has been set.
The Federal Death Penalty
Although Massachusetts state court banned capital punishment in 1984, the Federal Death Penalty Act of 1994 permits the federal government to impose death sentences for federal crimes.
Under federal rules, before a local United States Attorney’s Office can seek the death penalty, it must have prior written authorization of the Attorney General. Local prosecutors start this process by submitting its recommendation to the Attorney General for review. In this case, for example, local prosecutors representing Massachusetts U.S. Carmen M. Ortiz made a recommendation to Holder in November.
Since the Department of Justice’s death penalty process is strictly confidential, federal prosecutors from Ortiz's office had refused to say whether they'd recommended the death penalty for Tsarnaev.
Most legal experts had little doubt that Holder would grant the go-ahead.
"If you have the death penalty and don't use it in this kind of case where someone puts bombs down in crowds of civilians, then in what kind of case do you use it?" asked Aitan D. Goelman, who was part of the legal team that prosecuted Oklahoma City bombing figures Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols.
Authorization is one thing, imposing the sentence of death is another. Since the federal death penalty was restored in 1988, the Department of Justice has authorized federal prosecutors to seek the death penalty against 492 defendants, according to statistics compiled by the Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel Project.
For a variety of reasons, however, of the 492 defendants authorized for the death penalty, only three have been executed.
More about Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, boston bombing, Attorney general eric holder, Death penalty, federal death penalty
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