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Judge won’t act on marathon death penalty deadline

BOSTON — A federal judge on Friday rejected a request from lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to order prosecutors to give the defense more time to prepare their arguments against the death penalty.

Prosecutors have said they plan to make a recommendation to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder by Oct. 31 on whether to seek the death penalty against Tsarnaev.

Twin explosions at the April 15 marathon killed three people and injured more than 260. Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty to a 30-count federal indictment, including 17 charges that carry the possibility of the death penalty.

Tsarnaev’s lawyers objected to that timetable and asked a judge to order prosecutors to extend an Oct. 24 deadline for the defense to submit its case against the death penalty for inclusion in prosecutors’ recommendation to Holder.

Judge George O’Toole Jr. ruled Friday that the Justice Department has an internal protocol and that he will not get involved.

“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 the (Justice) Department’s internal deliberations,” O’Toole wrote in his order. “That would be well beyond the scope of any inherent authority to manage judicial business.”

During a court hearing last month, prosecutors from the office of U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz argued that Tsarnaev’s lawyers have had enough time since the bombing — six months — to prepare their case against the death penalty.

But Tsarnaev’s lawyers said they had not yet received key evidence from prosecutors, including interviews or grand jury testimony of Tsarnaev’s family.

Judy Clarke, a San Diego lawyer who is representing Tsarnaev, asked O’Toole to extend the deadline for them to make their submission to prosecutors at least until they receive the evidence they are seeking.

Prosecutors have said Tsarnaev and his 26-year-old brother, Tamerlan, built two pressure cooker bombs and placed them near the marathon’s finish line. Tamerlan Tsarnaev died following a shootout with police several days later.

According to prosecutors, Tsarnaev, an ethnic Chechen from Russia, wrote about his motivation for the bombing on the inside of a boat he was found hiding in after the shootout with police. “The U.S. Government is killing our innocent civilians” and “We Muslims are one body, you hurt one you hurt us all,” he allegedly wrote.

Miriam Conrad, another Tsarnaev lawyer and the chief federal public defender for Massachusetts, did not immediately return a call seeking comment on O’Toole’s ruling. A spokeswoman for Ortiz also did not return a call seeking comment.

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