BOSTON — Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was charged by federal prosecutors in his hospital room today with using a weapon of mass destruction to kill — a crime that carries a possible death sentence.
Officials have said Tsarnaev, 19, and his older brother set off the twin explosions at last week’s race that killed three people and wounded more than 180. His brother, Tamerlan, 26, died Friday after a fierce gunbattle with police.
Tsarnaev was listed in serious but stable condition at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital, unable to speak because of a gunshot wound to the throat.
The charges represented a decision by the Obama administration to prosecute him in the federal court system instead of trying him as an enemy combatant in front of a military tribunal. Under the military system, defendants are not afforded some of the usual U.S. constitutional protections.
Tsarnaev, an ethnic Chechen from Russia who has lived in the United States for about a decade, is a naturalized U.S. citizen, and under U.S. law, American citizens cannot be tried by military tribunals, White House spokesman Jay Carney said. Carney said that since the Sept. 11 attacks, the federal court system has been used to convict and incarcerate hundreds of terrorists.
Tsarnaev was charged with using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction against persons and property, resulting in death.
He is also likely to face state charges in connection with the shooting death of an MIT police officer.
Seven days after the bombings, Boston was bustling Monday, with runners hitting the pavement, children walking to school and enough cars clogging the streets to make the morning commute feel almost back to normal.
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick asked residents to observe a moment of silence at 2:50 p.m. Monday, the time the first of the two bombs exploded near the finish line. Bells were expected to toll across the city and state after the minute-long tribute to the victims.
Also, hundreds of family and friends packed a church in Medford for the funeral of bombing victim Krystle Campbell, a 29-year-old restaurant worker. A memorial service was scheduled for Monday night at Boston University for 23-year-old Lu Lingzi, a graduate student from China.
Fifty-one victims remained hospitalized Monday, three of them in critical condition.
At the Snowden International School on Newbury Street, a high school set just a block from the bombing site, jittery parents dropped off children as teachers — some of whom had run in the race — greeted each other with hugs.
Carlotta Martin of Boston said that leaving her kids at school has been the hardest part of getting back to normal.
“We’re right in the middle of things,” Martin said outside the school as her children, 17-year-old twins and a 15-year-old, walked in, glancing at the police barricades a few yards from the school’s front door.
“I’m nervous. Hopefully, this stuff is over,” she continued. “I told my daughter to text me so I know everything’s OK.”
The city was also beginning to reopen sections of the six-block area around the bombing site.
Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Sunday the surviving brother’s throat wound raised questions about when he will be able to talk again, if ever.
The wound “doesn’t mean he can’t communicate, but right now I think he’s in a condition where we can’t get any information from him at all,” Coats told ABC’s “This Week.”
It was not clear whether Tsarnaev was shot by police or inflicted the wound himself. After an intense all-day manhunt that brought the Boston area to a near-standstill, he was captured Friday night, wounded and bloody, after he was discovered hiding in a tarp-covered boat in a Watertown backyard.
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