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U.S. seeks death penalty for accused Boston Marathon bomber Tsarnaev

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The chief prosecutor in the case against accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev said Tsarnaev should be put to death if convicted for his role in the attack that killed 3 people and wounded another 264. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder released a statement in which he authorizing the prosecution to seek the death penalty in the case, according to a Jan. 30 report on Yahoo News.

The deadline for Holder’s decision on whether or not to seek the death penalty was this Friday. In his statement, Holder said, "The nature of the conduct at issue and the resultant harm compel this decision."

The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts is taking issue with decision on the grounds that Massachusetts abolished the death penalty decades ago. A survey conducted last year by the Boston Globe found 57% of Boston residents were in favor of letting Tsarnaev serve a life sentence as opposed to only 33% who favored the death penalty if he is convicted.

Tsarnaev, 20 and his older brother Tamerlan are accused of planting 2 pressure-cooker bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. The resulting explosion killed 3 including an 8-year-old boy and wounded 264 others.

A police chase 3 nights later left Tamerlan and 1 police officer dead following a shootout.

Holder has said he isn’t a proponent of the death penalty though he has authorized prosecutors under his direction to seek in 36 cases since he took office in 2009.

Austin Sarat, Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College in Massachusetts, is not surprised by the decision. He said, "If the harm is unusual, if the harm is dramatic, gruesome, and devastating, it is often very hard for any other factor to outweigh it. I'm not surprised by this decision."

Dzhokhar has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him. His attorneys are fighting the death penalty on the grounds that he was acting under the direction of his older brother. They also claim the government has created obstacles that make their preparation of a defense difficult.

No trial date for Tsarnaev has been set yet.

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