Boston Marathon trial reconvenes to decide punishment

This file photo released Friday, April 19, 2013 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation shows Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, charged with carrying out the April 2013 attack that killed three people and injured more than 260. (AP Photo/Federal Bureau of Investigation, File)

BOSTON (MEDIA GENERAL) — Only three people have been executed by the United States federal government since 1963, and only 79 have been sentenced to death since the reinstatement of the federal death penalty in 1988. Will Dzhokhar Tsarnaev be No. 80?

On April 8, the Boston Marathon bomber was convicted of 30 charges – 17 of which could send him to death row – including usage of a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death. The jury that convicted Tsarnaev will reconvene on Tuesday to decide whether he will be sentenced to death.

While the charges seem damning, according to numbers obtained by The Boston Globe from the Federal Death Penalty Resource Council, defendants only receive the death penalty in 34 percent of federal court cases – 79 of 232 decisions. However, it might be easier for federal prosecutors to successfully fight for the death penalty for Tsarnaev: His act of terrorism is unique from most death penalty cases, sharing the most similarities with Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, one of the three executed by the federal government in the modern era.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 61 convicts currently sit on death row with trials hung up in appeals. Ten convicts have been removed from death row after winning appeals.

McVeigh was the first to be executed by the federal government in the modern era. McVeigh carried out the 1995 Oklahoma City terrorist bombing outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building that killed 168 people, including eight federal employees.

From left, the three convicts federally executed since the federal death penalty was reinstated in 1988: Timothy McVeigh, Juan Raul Garza and Louis Jones Jr. (AP files)
(From left, the three convicts federally executed since the federal death penalty was reinstated in 1988: Timothy McVeigh, Juan Raul Garza and Louis Jones Jr. (AP files)

Juan Raul Garza and Louis Jones Jr., are the other two convicts who were executed. Garza was executed June 19, 2001 – eight days after McVeigh – for murder and ordering two other killings while running a drug ring in Texas. Jones was executed March 18, 2003, for the rape and murder of U.S. Army private Tracie McBride.

The federal death penalty was reinstated in 1988 under the Anti-Drug Abuse Act and reaffirmed under the Federal Death Penalty Act of 1994 and the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, passed following the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.

To charge with the death penalty, the jury must come to a unanimous decision and the judge must agree with the charge. If not, Tsarnaev will receive life in prison without the possibility of parole.

According to The Boston Globe, the sentencing phase is expected to last about four weeks.

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