A federal judge rejected on Friday a request by Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s defense attorneys to delay the deadline for prosecutors to recommend the death penalty.
U.S. District Court Judge George O’Toole Jr. said he would not get involved in an internal process that the U.S. Department of Justice has set up for prosecutors to determine if they will seek the death penalty against Tsarnaev.
“The decision whether to seek the imposition of the death penalty on the defendant’s conviction of any of these offenses rests with the prosecution,” O’Toole wrote in a Friday ruling. “What the defendant asks is that the Court set dates for events occurring not in the course of the judicial proceeding, but rather in the course of [Justice Department’s] internal deliberations. That would be well beyond the scope of any inherent authority to manage judicial business.”
Prosecutors said they still plan to make a recommendation to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder by Oct. 31 on if they will seek the death penalty against the defendant, and Tsarnaev’s lawyers will need to submit their case against the death penalty on Oct. 24.
Lawyers from U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz argued on Sept. 23 that Tsarnaev’s attorneys had more than six months since the bombings occurred to prepare their case against the death penalty.
Judy Clarke, Tsarnaev’s defense attorney, who also represented the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski and the Atlanta Olympics bomber Eric Robert Rudolph, asked O’Toole to extend the deadline to postpone their submission date until the defense obtained further evidence which they had requested but not yet received.
Prosecutors said Tsarnaev, 20, and his brother, Tamerlan, built two pressure-cooker bombs and placed them near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, leading to the death of three people and injuries to more than 260 people.
He is also charged with killing Massachusetts Institute of Technology Police Department officer Sean Collier when he and Tamerlan tried to escape from law enforcement officers after the Federal Bureau of Investigation released their photos three days after the bombings.
Tamerlan was killed that night after a shootout with police when Dzhokhar allegedly ran him over while escaping from the scene in a stolen vehicle. Dzhokhar was captured the next day, hiding in a dry-locked boat in Watertown after a prolonged manhunt.
Tsarnaev pleaded not guilty to all charges against him during his arraignment on July 10. Prosecutors said if the trial goes to trial, the defense could expect 85 to 100 witnesses and it could last three to four months.
Also on Friday, the Boston FBI, Massachusetts State Police Department and Boston Police Department released a statement responding to several inquiries from the media about when they knew the identities of the suspects.
“Members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force did not know their identities until shortly after Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s death, when they fingerprinted his corpse,” the statement read. “Nor did the [JTTF] have the Tsarnaevs under surveillance at any time after the Assessment of Tamerlan Tsarnaev was closed in 2011. The [JTTF] was at MIT., … on April 18, 2013, on a matter unrelated to the Tsarnaev brothers.”
U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa wrote to the FBI director in Washington, asking in a letter if the FBI was conducting surveillance in Central Square on the night of April 18, when the Tsarnaevs went on the chase and the agency was following the brothers.
“To be absolutely clear: No one was surveilling the Tsarnaevs and they were not identified after the shootout,” the statement read. “Any claims to the contrary are false.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev plead guilty to all charges against him, when actually he plead not guilty. This article has been updated to reflect these changes.