The high-security wing at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind., represents an increasingly complicated backdrop for a decision Attorney General Eric Holder is set to make in the next several weeks on whether to pursue the death penalty in the federal prosecution of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, says USA Today. The government has a strong case against Tsarnaev, charged with 30 criminal counts in connection with the blasts that killed three and wounded 260 others. But the government’s record in carrying out the death penalty is mixed at best.
Since the federal death penalty was reinstated in 1988, only three offenders have been executed and none in the past 10 years. Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh marked the first federal execution in nearly 40 years when he was put to death in 2001. In the case of Tsarnaev, there are other potentially complicating factors at play for the federal government in Massachusetts, a state long opposed to the death penalty. A September poll by the Boston Globe found that 57 percent of Boston residents favored life in prison without parole for Tsarnaev, while only 33 percent supported death.