Will the Boston Bomber Be Executed?

Even as doctors nurse the accused Boston bomber back to health, federal prosecutors in Washington are considering whether Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should be put to death. If convicted and given the death penalty, Tsarnaev would be strapped to a table and injected with a lethal cocktail of chemicals, possibly at the same Indiana federal prison where the Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh, was executed twelve years ago. But that outcome will only be possible if Attorney General Eric Holder asks for capital punishment for Tsarnaev’s role in the April 15 Boston marathon bombings, a sentence made possible by the charge that Tsarnaev used a weapon of a mass destruction in the attack. That seems likely. Prominent Democratic senators are calling for the death penalty against Tsarnaev, and his legal team seems to expect it. In the case of the accused 9/11 plotters, Holder has called execution a means of achieving “justice.” (MORE: Tsarnaev Snafus: Nearly 12 Years After 9/11, Boston Bombings Highlight Intelligence Holes) Still, Holder will make his decision at a moment of declining popular support for the death penalty, and amid a years-long halt in federal executions. Since 1963, only three federal convicts have been put to death—all of them between 2001 and 2003. Another 59 federal convicts are now on death row, according to Robert Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. Most of their cases are tangled up in the years-long appeals process and none have execution dates scheduled. That’s a contrast to the pace of the mid-20th century, when dozen of convicts were hanged, gassed and electrocuted. Some were extreme cases of national security, like the six German would-be saboteurs captured on U.S. soil in 1942, and the Cold War spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, dispatched by electric chair in 1953. Others were an assortment of kidnappers, rapists, killers and bank robbers. (PHOTOS: Images: Joy and Relief in Boston After Bombing Suspect’s Arrest) In the late 1960s, most executions in the U.S. stopped after legal challenges to state death penalty laws. But even the Supreme Court … Continue reading Will the Boston Bomber Be Executed?