Dzhokhar Tsarnaev could face the death penalty under a federal complaint read to him Monday in his hospital bed.
The White House announced earlier Monday that Tsarnaev will not be treated as an enemy combatant. “We will prosecute this terrorist through civilian system of justice,” Press Secretary Jay Carney said. “Under U.S. law, United States citizens cannot be tried in military commissions. It is important to remember since 9/11, we have used the federal court system to convict and incarcerate hundreds of terrorists.”
From the full statement:
Attorney General Eric Holder announced today that Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, 19, a U.S. citizen and resident of Cambridge, Mass., has been charged with using a weapon of mass destruction against persons and property at the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013, resulting in the death of three people and injuries to more than 200 people.
In a criminal complaint unsealed today in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, Tsarnaev is specifically charged with one count of using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction (namely, an improvised explosive device or IED) against persons and property within the United States resulting in death, and one count of malicious destruction of property by means of an explosive device resulting in death. The statutory charges authorize a penalty, upon conviction, of death or imprisonment for life or any term of years. Tsarnaev had his initial court appearance today from his hospital room.
Tsarnaev is reportedly still unable to speak and has been communicating with officials through writing. He would have been advised of his constitutional rights to remain silent and to have an attorney during the initial court appearance, which happened at the hospital.
The first charge is “using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction, resulting in death” regarding the bombs that exploded at the Boston marathon on April 15. Because the bombing resulted in death, under the law, Tsarnaev could face the death penalty. Under the provision, “weapons of mass destruction” include nuclear, biological or chemical weapons but also more traditional weapons like bombs or grenades.
The second charge relates to the property damage done by the bomb, and is a charge of “malicious destruction of property by means of an explosive device, resulting in death.”
Tsarnaev could face the death penalty if convicted of either charge in the federal complaint.