Boston bombing suspect Dzhokahar Tsarnev will be fighting for his life in the courtroom if attorneys cannot reach some kind of plea deal. According to Boston.com, “Attorney General Eric Holder has authorized federal prosecutors to seek the death penalty” for Tsarnev. The dual bombings during the Boston Marathon April 15, 2013 killed three people and injured between 260-290 people. During the manhunt, either Tsarnev or his brother Tamerlan who was later killed himself, shot and killed MIT police officer Sean Collier.
Of the 30 federal charges Tsarnev faces, federal prosecutors will seek the death penalty for 17 of them. The statement from the U.S. Attorney General cites the large scope of the crime as their rationale for seeking the ultimate punishment. Also, a charge that “death occurred during the commission of another crime” (evading police) is thought to be a direct reference to the murder of the Officer Collier.
U.S. District Judge George O’Toole, Jr. assigned four public defenders to represent Tsarnev during the trial, such as Judy Clarke who has defended death penalty cases in the past. According to the Boston Globe, “Tsarnev’s defense team may also consider whether to ask the judge to relocate the trial to a different district either in state or out of state.” While their logic makes sense, one wonders if there is any district in the U.S. that wouldn’t have a preconceived bias against the suspect of the first successful terrorist attack in the homeland since 9/11.
An in-depth feature from Rolling Stone—that was almost totally ignored by the media in favor of a phony controversy about their cover photo—examined through interviews with associates how Tsarnev went from a relatively popular immigrant kid in America to a radical extremist hell-bent on destruction, shines a light on what the FBI investigators may have found and what may come up in the trial.
Only the American Civil Liberties Union has made a statement condemning the decision to seek the death penalty, and only because the organization is against it across the board. For most others, the decision to seek the death penalty does not come as a surprise.