Feds Seek Death Penalty for Pirates in Quest Hijacking and Murders

U.S. prosecutors are reportedly seeking the death penalty against three Somali pirates charged with murdering four Americans aboard their sailing yacht, the S/V Quest, during February 2011 hijacking, according to the Associated Press.

The S/V Quest and her crew, owners Jean and Scott Adam of California and friends Bob Riggle and Phyllis Macay of Seattle, were captured by Somali pirates in February 2011 while sailing a few hundred miles off the coast of Oman.  After three days of negotiations with U.S. forces, the pirates opened fire on the American crew, killing all four and leading to a raid of the vessel that ended with the capture of 15 pirates and four fatalities.

Court filings obtained by the AP say prosecutors are seeking the death penalty because the three men “killed or attempted to kill more than one person during a single episode,” their actions “endangered the U.S. military,” and that the Americans were killed “in an especially wanton and gratuitous manner.”

So far, eleven pirates have pleaded guilty to piracy and sentenced to life in prison, one was released as a juvenile, and another who is believed to be the lead negotiator was recently convicted of piracy and also faces life sentence, the AP reports.