BOSTON — Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was charged by federal prosecutors in his hospital room Monday 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.