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article imageFeds seek death penalty for Boston bombing suspect

By Phyllis Smith Asinyanbi     Jan 30, 2014 in Politics
Boston - Attorney General Eric Holder has authorized federal prosecutors to seek capital punishment for Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev who is charged with 30 federal crimes related to the Boston Marathon bombing that killed three people and injured 260.
“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," Holder said in a statement.
A federal judge was notified of the decision Thursday. (Click here to read notice of intent to seek the death penalty.)
Carmen M. Ortiz, Boston US Attorney said, "We support this decision and the trial team is prepared to move forward with the prosecution."
Judy Clarke, one of the most renowned death penalty attorneys in the US, is at the helm of Tsarnaev's legal defense team. It is speculated that a strong part of the defense would be the influence of the suspect's brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, as Tsarnaev was 19 years old when the bombing took place.
Tamerlan was shot and killed four days after the bombing while engaging in a shootout with law enforcement. Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Another attorney, Miriam Conrad, one of the leaders on Tsarnaev's defense team, had no comment after Holder's decision. A trial date has not been set.
This is the most high-profile case of Holder's career to date, and although he is not a proponent of the death penalty, he has approved seeking capital punishment in 34 cases.
In another case, Holder told a Senate Judiciary Committee panel, "I will enforce the law that has been passed, and any statute that contains a death penalty provision will be looked at as any other statute. I will enforce the law as this Congress gives it to us."
Massachusetts, the state in which the Boston bombing occurred, has not had capital punishment in its books since 1984. However, a Massachusetts jury recently imposed the death penalty in the case against Gary Lee Sampson, who pleaded guilty to killing two men in 2001.
The judge threw out the death sentence, but Carmen Ortiz, US attorney in Boston, says prosecutors will seek the death penalty again against Sampson.
Per Larry Mackey, a former Justice Department prosecutor, careful jury selection is crucial if Tsarnaev stands trial. For the death penalty to be imposed, all jurors would have to find him guilty and must also agree on imposing capital punishment. If this happened, the defense would negotiate for life in prison for Tsarnaev in exchange for a guilty plea. Yet, if one juror dissents on the vote for capital punishment, the suspect would be sentenced to life in prison.
The death penalty was reinstated in 1976, and only three federal death sentences have been implemented since then. One of them was Timothy McVeigh in the Oklahoma City bombing.
More about Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Eric holder, Death penalty, Capital punishment, boston bombing
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