AP Photo/Federal Bureau of Investigation
Nineteen-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev could get the death penalty for allegedly bombing the Boston Marathon, but it's entirely possible that won't happen.
Tsarnaev has been charged with planting two bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon that killed three people and injured at least 282 others, many of whom lost limbs.
Police believe he and his 26-year-old brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who died during a police standoff, acted without the aid of an outside terrorist group.
The 19-year-old suspect may still have useful information for police about how they planned the marathon attack. In that case, prosecutors may offer to take the death penalty off the table in exchange for his cooperation.
“If the younger brother can shed any light on the circumstances of the older brother’s alleged involvement, that’s valuable information that the government would want,” high-profile defense lawyer Stephen Jones told the Boston Herald.
His lawyers will want him to keep quiet until prosecutors actually make that offer.
"If Tsarnaev and his lawyer want to negotiate something other than a death sentence, his possible cooperation would be an important bargaining chip," legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin writes in The New Yorker. "The more Tsarnaev talks now, the less he has to offer later."
It's also possible that a jury would spare him the death penalty even if prosecutors seek it.
Tsarnaev is a fairly sympathetic figure for an accused terrorist. He's young, and many of his classmates at the prestigious Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School seemed shocked that he was involved with a terrorist plot because he was such a sweet guy.
The United States reinstated the federal death penalty in 1988, and since then only three federal defendants have been put to death, Reuters has reported. One of those defendants was Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, another U.S. citizen tried for domestic terrorism.
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