BOSTON (MyFoxBoston.com) – Attorneys for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev have asked for more time to prepare their case against the death penalty for the 20-year-old Boston Marathon bombing suspect.
Tsarnaev's attorneys filed the motion to postpone setting a deadline to present their case to the United States Attorney's office. Earlier this week prosecutors said they would make their decision by the end of October and expect U.S. Attorney General Eric holder to decide early next year.
"Simply put, the government's deadline of Oct. 24, 2013 fails to provide the defense with ‘reasonable opportunity' to make a presentation to the U.S. Attorney concerning death penalty authorization," the filing from Tsarnaev's attorneys read. "This arbitrary date falls less than two months after the government's production of multiple terabytes of discover, while an important preliminary defense request for Brady material is still pending, and while the defense is still in the early stages of independent investigation that literally spans the globe."
On Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney William Weinreb argued that the defense has had almost six months since the bombing. He said federal prosecutors plan to make a recommendation to Holder by Oct. 31. He will have the ultimate say on whether to seek the death penalty; his decision is expected by Jan. 31, Weinreb said.
Twin bombings at the April 15 marathon killed three people and injured more than 260. Tsarnaev, 20, and his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, built two pressure cooker bombs and placed them near the finish line of the marathon, prosecutors allege. Tamerlan Tsarnaev died following a shootout with police days later.
Tsarnaev was charged in a 30-count federal indictment, including 17 charges that carry the possibility of the death penalty. He has pleaded not guilty.
Weinreb said prosecutors originally asked Tsarnaev's lawyers to submit their arguments by Aug. 23 but agreed to extend that deadline to October at their request. He said prosecutors are not required by law to wait for input from the defense before submitting their recommendation to Holder.
"We think that six months is a reasonable time," he said.
But Judy Clarke, one of Tsarnaev's lawyers, said "it's a matter of fairness" and asked the judge to delay the date for their submission at least until they get the evidence they are seeking.
"It's pretty stunning to say they can make a decision based on what they know without some defense input," said Clarke, a San Diego lawyer who has won life sentences instead of the death penalty for high-profile clients, including the Unabomber and the gunman in the rampage that wounded former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona.
Judge George O'Toole Jr. took no immediate action on the request but agreed to allow the defense to submit arguments on whether the court has the authority to reset any deadlines.
Prosecutors say Tsarnaev, an ethnic Chechen from Russia, wrote about his motivation for the bombing on the inside of the boat, scrawling that the U.S. government was "killing our innocent civilians."
Massachusetts does not have a state death penalty.