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Federal prosecutors will seek the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in last year's Boston Marathon bombing, saying in court papers that the deadly plot was committed in an "especially heinous, cruel and depraved manner", The Los Angeles Times reported.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.'s decision, announced Thursday, marks the first time the Obama administration will attempt to execute an accused terrorist in a federal court case. But whether the 20-year-old immigrant will be sentenced to death will be subject to an intense legal fight.
Tsarnaev's defense attorneys will argue for leniency, portraying him as a confused young man under the spell of his more militant older brother, who was killed in a police shootout. The case is being handled in Massachusetts, where capital punishment is unpopular and no one has been put to death in more than 65 years. A plea agreement could be reached in exchange for dropping the death penalty, as has occurred in past cases.
The decision could be risky: Boston is a largely liberal community and Massachusetts' last execution came in 1947, when two gangsters went to the electric chair for killing a former U.S. Marine. Just this month, the Boston Bar Assn. issued a statement opposing the death penalty in all future federal cases.