Tsarnaev, 19, was charged with one count of using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction, namely, an improvised explosive device, “against persons and property within the United States resulting in death,” and one count of malicious destruction of property by means of an explosive device resulting in death.
Both charges carry the death penalty, the US Department of Justice said.
“Tsarnaev had his initial court appearance today from his hospital room,” where a Massachusetts judge read the charges to Tsarnaev in his hospital bed, US Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.
The teenager, a naturalized US citizen of Chechen origin, is in serious condition with bullet wounds after a firefight with US law enforcement agents on Friday, in which his older brother and alleged accomplice in the marathon bombings, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was killed.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tsarnaev will be tried as a terrorist, not an enemy combatant, in a civilian court.
“We will prosecute this terrorist through our civilian system of justice. Under US law, United States citizens cannot be tried in military commissions,” Carney said, adding that the United States has “a long history of successfully prosecuting terrorists and bringing them to justice” in civilian courts.