The Tsarnzev brothers wreaked havoc in back bay Boston, carjacked a car in Cambridge, then finally are arrested in Watertown. The Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been charged with using a weapon of Mass Destruction. Many people have questioned why Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has not been charged with any other crimes. The public is being told that the investigation is ongoing. At some point the case will be brought in front of a grand jury. The grand jury process is the mechanism the US Attorney’s office in Massachusetts brings formal indictments against a person.
Grand jurors are made up of everyday people who are essentially serving jury duty. Any person that is eligible to serve on a jury can be put on a grand jury. One of the main differences is that the grand jurors serve for 3 months at a time and a grand jury can hear many cases during their service. Any person that lives in Massachusetts can be brought into court for federal grand jury service. People who live towns or cities such as Natick, Newton, Lowell, Malden, Quincy, Boston and all of Eastern Massachusetts will likley be called to the Boston Federal Court house. People who live in towns in the central part of th state such as Shrewsbury, Fitchburg, Milford and Worcester will likely be called to the Worcester federal court house.
Unlike a trial jury, the grand jury’s purpose is to bring formal indictments against a defendant. The grand jury doesn’t listen to the evidence to return a verdict, or impose a penalty in which a defendant should serve. The US Attorney’s office has the power to subpoena records or witnesses to the grand jury. Many times, the US Attorney’s office will use these grand jury powers to further investigate and strengthen their criminal case.
As of right now, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is being charged with using a weapon of mass destruction. It is highly likely that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will face more charges once the grand jury returns its indictments. The US Attorney’s office wanted to hold Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on a serious charge right now to prevent him from getting out of custody. Once the grand jury indictment returns, then we would know what exactly what charges Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is facing. The most likely charge that the grand jury indictments will add is murder. However, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev could end up facing a long list of criminal charges.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is facing a charge of using a weapon of mass destruction; a charge in which Dzhokhar Tsarnaev could face the death penalty. As many people from Massachusetts already know, Massachusetts does not have the death penalty. In 1984, the court in the case of Commonwealth v. Cruz ruled capital punishment to be unconstitutional. Seeing that the US Attorney of Massachusetts is bringing these charges in federal court, the US Attorney’s office can still ask for the death penalty in a non-death penalty state. The question that has never been answered is if the federal government is allowed to put someone to death in a state where the death penalty is outlawed. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev case may be the first case to resolve this apparent conflict between state and federal law.
Regardless of what happens in the federal case, the Massachusetts state courts may also bring charges against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The most likely charge that he could face in state court is once again murder. If Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is convicted of murder in state court he could face up to life in prison.