Friday, December 15, 2017

Judge sets November trial in marathon bombing

BOSTON — Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was given a November trial date over the strenuous objections of his attorneys, who said Wednesday that they won't have enough time to mount a defense in a terrorism case that carries a possible death penalty.

The Nov. 3 trial date is nearly a year earlier than the earliest date requested by Tsarnaev's lawyers, but in line with what prosecutors had sought.

"I think it is a realistic and a fair one," U.S. District Judge George O'Toole Jr. said of the schedule.

Federal prosecutors announced last month that they will seek the death penalty against Tsarnaev, who is charged in twin bombings that killed three people and wounded more than 260.

Prosecutors allege that Tsarnaev, 20, and his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, built and planted two pressure cooker bombs near the finish line of the marathon last April. Tamerlan Tsarnaev died following a shootout with police several days later.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty to 30 federal counts, including using a weapon of mass destruction. He is being held at a federal prison and was not in court for Wednesday's hearing.

Several people injured in the bombings did attend, including Marc Fucarile.

Fucarile, who lost his right leg above the knee, said he wished the trial would start even earlier.

"Why not?" he asked. "Everybody should be on the same page. … It's pretty cut and dried with the evidence. Don't waste anybody's time."

Defense attorney Judy Clarke complained that prosecutors have been "sluggish" in turning over evidence to her team. In particular, she cited 2,000 pieces of physical evidence at an FBI lab in Quantico, Va., that the defense hasn't been able to examine yet.

"It's not the defense dragging its feet. We're really struggling with getting access to evidence," she said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Aloke Chakravarty said prosecutors are hoping to bring those items back to Boston for easier viewing by the defense.

Clarke said it's doubtful the defense could get experts to review the items before this summer, which would make a November trial date "virtually impossible."

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