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Boston Sighs With Relief As Investigation Proceeds


This is WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden.

It's been a dramatic and tumultuous week in Boston. After a 22-hour manhunt, one of its (unintelligible) accused of bombing the Boston Marathon is in police custody.

19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured yesterday evening as he hid in a boat in a backyard in the suburb of Watertown. He remains in a hospital bed, reportedly unable to speak. He'd been injured late Thursday in a shootout with police that left his older brother, Tamerlan, dead.

The hunt for Dzhokhar brought Greater Boston to a standstill. But today, people ventured back outside to celebrate the ordeal's end. NPR's Jim Zarroli has more.

JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: The sidewalks of Boston were once again choked with pedestrians today. Not far from the bombing site near Copley Square, people turned out at a makeshift memorial to the victims. A lot of people are breathing a sigh of relief that the alleged bomber has been caught, and many had words of gratitude for the police guarding the site.



ZARROLI: This is still a crime scene, and police have set up barricades to keep people away from the bomb site itself. Andrea Sacs(ph), a college student, stood near the memorial this morning.

ANDREA SACS: I just hope for answers. I mean, it's all just very confusing not knowing what the motive was. You want justice. I'm just glad he was taken alive. That way, we can have more closure.

ZARROLI: Answers are what law enforcement officials are searching for as well. As authorities begin the next stage of their investigation, they have two main concerns, says David Rossman of Boston University Law School.

DAVID ROSSMAN: One will be to get information, not necessarily to help them in a prosecution against the person who's in the hospital, but information that will perhaps lead them to others or will provide them with some assurance that other people aren't involved.

ZARROLI: The other concern, he says, is how to build a case against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev himself. Tsarnaev is in serious condition at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital and reportedly can't answer questions. Federal officials are holding him without filing charges or even reading him his rights by invoking a public safety exemption. Once they can talk to him, they will have a lot of questions about the origins of the bomb plot and his own motivations for joining it. Jeff Horblit is a former FBI agent and prosecutor.

JEFF HORBLIT: It's clear that they're going to want to know what he knew, when he knew it, who he knows and who else may have been involved.

ZARROLI: For Tsarnaev, the stakes couldn't be any higher. Massachusetts lacks the death penalty. But under federal terrorism law, a person can be executed for using a weapon of mass destruction to interfere with interstate commerce. Rossman says U.S. officials could well decide to prosecute Tsarnaev under that statute.

ROSSMAN: I would think that it is a very, very realistic possibility for him to face a federal capital trial. I don't know that he could be in worse trouble having to face the American criminal justice system than what he is currently facing.

ZARROLI: The prospect that 19-year-old Tsarnaev could face the death penalty is one that a lot of Bostonians seem to have no problem with. Jim Burgess(ph) stood near the memorial in Copley Square today.

JIM BURGESS: I would hope that they seek the federal death penalty for him, but he's going to get his trial, you know, as an American citizen that he deserved when he took the oath. Why he took that oath when he really wanted to hurt us, I'm not sure.

ZARROLI: But others were ambivalent about what should happen. If media accounts can be believed, Tsarnaev was heavily influenced by his older brother. And Jason Wurl(ph) says if he can atone for his crimes, he should be spared the death penalty.

JASON WURL: It's hard to understand, you know, with all the things we've heard about this young boy. He's still a kid to me. He's 19 years old, and I just feel like he got lost. He got caught up in something that he doesn't understand.

ZARROLI: But for now, Tsarnaev remains in serious condition in his hospital bed. Meanwhile, so much remains unclear about his motives or how and why the bloody events of this week took place. Jim Zarroli, NPR News, Boston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jim Zarroli is an NPR correspondent based in New York. He covers economics and business news.