01/30/2014 AT 3:00 PM ET
Federal prosecutors on Thursday announced they will seek the death penalty against 20-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in the Boston Marathon bombing, instantly raising the stakes in what could be one of the most wrenching trials the city has ever seen.
Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to press for Tsarnaev’s execution was widely expected. The twin blasts killed three people and wounded more than 260 others, and 17 of the 30 federal charges against him – including using a weapon of mass destruction to kill – carry the possibility of the death penalty.
“The nature of the conduct at issue and the resultant harm compel this decision,” Holder said in a statement.
Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty. A trial date has not been set.
Prosecutors allege that Tsarnaev, then 19, and his 26-year-old brother, ethnic Chechens from Russia who had lived in the Boston area for about a decade, built and planted two pressure cooker bombs near the finish line of the marathon in April to retaliate against the U.S. for its military action in Muslim countries. The brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, died in a shootout with police during a getaway attempt days after the bombing.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was wounded but escaped on foot and was later found hiding in a boat parked in a yard in a Boston suburb. Authorities have said he wrote about his motivation for the bombing on the inside of the boat.
“The U.S. Government is killing our innocent civilians,” ”I can’t stand to see such evil go unpunished,” and “We Muslims are one body, you hurt one you hurt us all,” he allegedly wrote.
The bombings stunned the nation during one of Boston’s most celebrated events as runners crossed the finish line and friends, families and spectators were gathered to cheer them on.
Killed in the bombings were: Martin Richard, 8, of Boston; Krystle Campbell, 29, of Medford; and Lu Lingzi, 23, a Boston University graduate student from Shenyang, China. At least 16 others lost limbs.