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Boston bombings: Prosecution readies its case, seeks answers on motive

In the Boston Marathon bomb attack, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev could face federal terrorism charges punishable with the death penalty. He could also face murder charges from Massachusetts prosecutors.


Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, poses for a photo after graduating from Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School. Tsarnaev has been identified as the surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings.

Robin Young/AP

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With the capture of bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the investigation of the Boston Marathon attacks has shifted from a manhunt to the preparation for a prosecution and a quest to answer the question that most mystifies millions of onlookers: Why?

Federal officials believe that Mr. Tsarnaev, a 19-year-old Massachusetts college student, set off the twin explosions April 15 with his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, who was killed in a shootout two nights ago with police outside Boston.

The surviving brother, now reported to be in stable but serious condition at a Boston hospital, could face federal terrorism charges punishable with the death penalty. He could also face murder charges from Massachusetts prosecutors.

Many legal experts see the prosecution’s case as an unusually strong one. The evidence that has surfaced, according to news reports, includes bomb-making equipment at the apartment where the brothers lived, eyewitness testimony from one of the surviving victims, and video, photos, and forensic evidence from the marathon-day crime scene.

There’s also the fact that the two brothers exchanged gun fire with police and, according to some news reports, admitted to the owner of a car they hijacked that they were the marathon bombers.

But big questions remain, notably about their motivation and whether others aided their effort or concealed their plans.

That may explain why federal law enforcement officials did not read Miranda rights to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev when he surrendered on a property in Watertown, Mass. Although almost all people arrested in the US are read these rights, such as the right to remain silent and the warning that anything they say can be used in a court of law, exceptions can be made in cases where public safety is an imminent concern.

By not reading the rights, officials have greater ability to seek information from Tsarnaev. That leaves some risk that information they glean won’t be admissible in court. Some legal experts argue that Miranda rights should have been read to Tsarnaev promptly.


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