BOSTON — Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was charged by federal prosecutors in his hospital room today with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction — 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 marathon that killed three people and wounded more than 180. His brother, Tamerlan, 26, died Friday after a fierce gunbattle.
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 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 is also likely to face state charges in connection with the shooting death of an MIT police officer.