Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday authorized the death penalty to be imposed on the man accused of last year’s Boston Marathon bombing.
Ending months of deliberations, and going against his own previously stated skepticism about the death penalty, Holder said execution is the most appropriate sentence if a federal jury convicts Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
"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," Holder's memo stated, adding that 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."
Tsarnaev is charged with multiple criminal counts, including "use of a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death."
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A federal judge in Boston had set Friday as the deadline for Holder’s decision, prompting intense maneuvering both behind the scenes and in public.
“We support this decision and the trial team is prepared to move forward with the prosecution,” U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said in statement.
Earlier this month, in anticipation of a Justice Department decision, the 10,000-plus member Boston Bar Association publicly denounced capital punishment in federal cases. The association was already on record opposing the death penalty for state crimes.
"The research we conducted confirms that death penalty prosecutions, including federal death penalty cases, are more expensive and time consuming, more subject to prolonged delays, and unlikely to produce a different result than where the prosecution seeks life without parole,” attorney Martin Murphy stated on behalf of the bar association.
Massachusetts does not permit capital punishment for state crimes.
Currently, 59 federal inmates are on death row. Federal executions, though, are very rare. Since 1976, when Supreme Court allowed the reinstatement of the death penalty, only three federal executions have taken place. One of the inmates executed was Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.
"The process by which decision was made is confidential," Ortiz said in her statement, adding that "it entailed a careful and detailed consideration of the particular facts and circumstances."