The United States will seek the death penalty for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokar Tsarnaev, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced in a statement Thursday.
Federal prosecutors filed the Notice of Intent to seek the death penalty in the case United States of America v. Dzhokar A.Tsarnaev to the U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts.
“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. “The nature of the conduct at issue and the resultant harm compel this decision.”
Tsarnaev, 20, was a student at University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth when he was accused of planting two bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15. His brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was the other prime suspect in the case. Four days after the marathon, officers in Watertown shot Tamerlan.
The Boston Marathon bombings killed three people, including Boston University graduate student Lingzi Lu, and injured at least 264.
Boston Mayor Martin Walsh held a news conference on Thursday to speak about the decision.
“Over the past nine months, the people of Boston have shown the world that we are a city full of heart and courage,” he said. “We stand together as One Boston in the face of evil and hatred. Attorney General Holder has applied the law in this case, and I support the process that brought him to this decision.”
In Massachusetts, capital punishment has been abolished since the 1984 ruling of Commonwealth v. Colon-Cruz. To date, there have been 345 executions in Massachusetts, according to deathpenaltyinfo.org, a nonprofit that focuses on the issues concerning the death penalty.
Boston Police Department Police Commissioner Williams Evans said the death penalty is a justified punishment for Tsarnaev, but the focus of conversation should shift from punishing the suspect to mourning with the victims.
“Given the vicious nature of the crime … today’s decision to seek the death penalty seems appropriate,” he said. “But on this day, I find myself thinking less about punishment and more about the people impacted. As such, my thoughts and prayers are with the families of Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell, Lingzi Lu and Officer Sean Collier as they continue to mourn and make sense of a day none of us will ever forget.”
Several residents said they are happy with Holder’s decision to seek the death penalty, although the Notice of Intent may be premature.
John Murray, 48, of Brighton, said he is ambivalent about the death penalty, but in an act of terrorism, it is warranted.
“I don’t want to pay for this punk,” he said. “We’ve already paid for him long enough. Welfare, bringing him over here, gave him asylum. As it is, we’re probably going to be stuck with him for about 20 years, maybe longer, maybe forever. The thing about the death penalty is we should either have it or we don’t. If he gets it, he gets it the next day. Never mind those 20 years of appeals.”
Alissa Kramer, 31, of Jamaica Plain, said the death penalty is too drastic a measure for any crime, especially one in which the suspect has not yet been found guilty.
“Without him actually having been found guilty yet, I find it hard to come to a verdict, thinking he should receive the death penalty before he’s actually been found guilty yet,” she said. “I just think an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind, to quote Ghandi. I just can’t condone the killing of a person, for any reason.”
Kimberly McGinn, 28, of Boston, said Tsarnaev shook the foundations of security in Boston and he should be punished for his actions.
“This isn’t a war zone,” she said. “This is Boston. And to just shake people up like that … there’s nothing worse than what he did. People’s lives here are so safe and secure, so something like that shakes you up completely. Our world is going to come crumbling down if we don’t punish people for that.”