Federal prosecutors are mulling whether accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should die for his alleged role in the deadly April terror attack and shooting death of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer.
Defense attorney Judy Clarke, a death-penalty specialist, told a federal court in Boston yesterday that she was concerned prosecutors planned to decide whether to seek execution before the defense had finished reviewing the evidence.
"It's pretty stunning to say they can make a decision based on what they know without any defense input," Clarke said. "They may have an erroneous story."
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston will make a death penalty recommendation to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who has the final say, by Oct. 31. Holder will make the decision by January 31.
Defense attorneys have yet to say whether they will ask that the trial be held outside of Boston to ensure Tsarnaev is given a fair trial.
Tsarnaev, who is being held at a federal prison in Devens, was not in court for yesterday's status hearing.
At a court appearance in July, he had a cast on his left arm and his face was swollen, the apparent results of injuries sustained in a gun battle with police.
Tsarnaev, 20, is accused of killing 29-year-old restaurant manager Krystle Campbell, graduate student Lingzi Lu, 23, and 8-year-old Martin Richard and injuring 264 after planting two pressure cooker bombs at the 2013 Boston Marathon. Tsarnaev is also accused of murdering MIT police officer Sean Collier three days after the bombing.
He has pleaded not guilty to 30 federal charges, including using a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death and 16 other charges that carry the possibility of the death penalty.
Dzhokhar’s older brother and alleged bombing mastermind, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, died during a shootout with police.