The plan to kill Tsarnaev

The Bureau of Prisons released a 54-page “Execution Protocol’’ that provides step-by-step planning for federal executions.
The Bureau of Prisons released a 54-page “Execution Protocol’’ that provides step-by-step planning for federal executions. –AP/Sue Ogrocki, File

Barring a successful appeal, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will most likely die at a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.

He will die in a white T-shirt and khaki pants after eating a meal of his choice. He will be allowed to deliver some final words.

If so condemned, he could become only the fourth man the U.S. government has executed since 1963. Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, was executed in June 2001. Juan Raul Garza, who was convicted of drug trafficking and three murders, was executed a week later. Louis Jones, who was convicted of rape and murder, was executed in March 2003.


There are unanswered questions about the exact circumstances of how Tsarnaev, who was given the death penalty Friday, will go to his death. Tsarnaev will remain imprisoned in Massachusetts until his formal sentencing in the coming weeks, after which he’ll be sent to Terre Haute.

The government has had a moratorium on federal executions since 2011, as the Justice Department reviews the Bureau of Prisons’ protocols. That review may change details of future executions — or their existence at all.

But we do know the steps that were taken in the three most recent executions. In planning for McVeigh’s death, the Bureau of Prisons released a 54-page “Execution Protocol’’ that provides approved procedures.

Here are some details from that document:

Location: Executions are performed at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana. A judge may choose to relocate the execution to a state where the death penalty is legal if that would be more convenient for victims and family members to access.

Last meal: Between three and 12 hours before death, those condemned to die receive a last meal of their choosing, cooked by prison staff. Alcohol is not allowed.

Clothing: The condemned individual is dressed in khaki pants, a white T-shirt, white socks, and slip-on shoes.


Method of execution: Lethal injection is the only approved method of execution for the federal government. Other options could be considered in the Justice Department’s review.

Witnesses: Up to eight victims or victim’s family members can watch the execution. The condemned individual can choose one spiritual advisor, two attorneys, and three family or friends to be present. They are located outside the execution room and can watch through a window.

Media: Ten members of the media are allowed to watch the final moments through a window. There are no cameras or recording devices allowed in the building.

Last words: The prisoner set to be executed is allowed to give a “reasonably brief’’ final statement. Those are then transcribed and given to media members.

The signal: The U.S. marshall says “We are ready.’’ The executioner delivers the lethal drugs.

Time of death: The exact time of death is recorded, and takes place in the early morning. Jones was executed at 7:08 a.m., McVeigh at 7:14 a.m., and Garza at 7:09 a.m.

Responsibility for remains: The death row inmate is allowed to designate a person to handle disposing their body after death.

The Dzhokhar Tsarnaev trial in courtroom sketches

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