Morning Joe   |  April 23, 2013

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev could be youngest to face death penalty

NBC News' Pete Williams joins Morning Joe for the latest details in the investigation into the Boston Marathon bombings.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> the boston bombing investigation. and joining us now from washington, nbc news justice correspondent pete williams . pete?

>> mika, good morning to you, how are you?

>> we're good. we're just looking at the front pages of most of the papers. it looks like the justice is underway in a hospital room. and there's even talk of the potential death penalty being a part of that, as well, front page of the "daily news" we're holding up now. what do you know?

>> these two charges they've filed against tsarnaev. the attorney general has to get involved, there's a whole process. if the government did seek the death penalty against him, he's 19, remember, he'd be by far the youngest person in the federal system against whom the death penalty was sought in modern times .

>> and what did they learn in the hospital with him? i know he had, i think, at least three public defenders with him. how was that executed? and what were they able to get out of him in terms of information leading us to understand more about how this all came about?

>> well, that was during the question before the public defenders came into it which was during the monday hearing in the hospital. he has been cooperative, sometimes by nodding, sometimes by writing notes. he can't speak well because of the injury in his throat. but they say he has told him that he and his older brother were not in touch with any overseas terrorist groups . he claims that they came up with this bombing plan on their own. they were motivated by religious fervor and got their instructions on how to make the bomb from the internet, specifically from an online magazine called "inspire," the one published by al qaeda . and it has twice included articles on how to build bombs using pressure cookers. and that's what the devices in boston were made with. and these articles in "inspire" have offered a design that turns out very similar to the way their bombs were built.

>> pete, it's katty here, does the fact he was saying no outside organization, they weren't linked up with a terror plot to do the boston bombings, does that now squash the whole argument of him being tried as an enemy combatant ? i know the white house has said he's going to be tried in a federal court anyway, would that nullify that argument?

>> well, i understand the argument from some republicans they're not arguing he be tried as an enemy combatant . they concede the fact he cannot be tried as a combatant. there's a law called the national defense act of 2012 that says specifically u.s. citizens cannot be tried in military tribunals. they're arguing he should be questioned as an enemy combatant and then turned over to the civilian justice system . i don't think this will change their view. and, of course, what the fbi says is this is what he has told them. but they have to now verify this. and of course, they are working to do that.

>> all right. nbc justice correspondent pete williams . once again, thank you very much.

>> you bet.

>> and eugene robinson , thank you, as well. we'll be reading your column in the " washington post ."

>> and let me ask you quickly. are you surprised your home state of south carolina won on this background check issue is an 86/12 proposition?

>> i am not surprised. i am floored. i know that district. and look at it on the map. i mean, if it's 86/12 in that district, then this ought to be over. and politicians ought to take a look at that because that's a very, very conservative swath of the state. and there you have the numbers. it's incredible.

>> should be an ominous sign, mika, for democrats and republicans who voted against background checks for criminals, terrorists, and the mentally ill .

>> you would think. still ahead on " morning joe ," google executive chairman eric schmidt will join us on the set. we hope he brings us some of those google glasses. joe, you should wear them.

>> or money.

>> i'll wear the money.

>> out with a new documentary "dirty wars," an exclusive first look at that trailer. and up next, chuck todd joins the conversation along with lisa myers live at reagan national with the latest on how the sequester is causing big headaches at major airports. you're watching " morning joe " brewed by starbucks.

>> it's important to give credit where credit is due. no one has been more deserving than nbc . props to pete williams who did a great job when he was covering this terror attack . brian williams did a great job, serena williams i thought was very good. robin williams , will.iam. for