Boston bombing trial date set

DENISE LAVOIE
Last updated 07:32 13/02/2014
CHARGED: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
Reuters
ACCUSED: Boston bombings suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

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Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will face trial in November, but his lawyers say they won't have enough time to mount a defence in a terrorism case that carries a possible death penalty.

The November 3 trial date set Wednesday (NZT Thursday) was nearly a year earlier than the earliest date requested by Tsarnaev's lawyers, but was in line with what prosecutors had sought.

''I think it is a realistic and a fair one,'' US District Judge George O'Toole said of the schedule he set.

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

Prosecutors allege that Tsarnaev, 20, and his 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 was 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 said.

''Everybody should be on the same page. It's pretty cut and dried with the evidence. Don't waste anybody's time.''

Defence lawyer Judy Clarke, one of the country's leading death penalty specialists, complained that prosecutors have been ''sluggish'' in turning over evidence to her team.

In particular, she cited 2000 pieces of physical evidence at an FBI laboratory in Quantico, Virginia, that the defence hasn't been able to examine yet.

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

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

Clarke said the defence had a ''tremendous amount'' of work to do to compile information on Tsarnaev's family history.

The family lived in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan and came to the United States about a decade ago from the Dagestan region of Russia.

''There's just a tremendous amount of logistical hurdles,'' she said.

O'Toole did not agree to change the trial date, but he did order prosecutors to compile a list of the items in Quantico for Tsarnaev's lawyers by the end of the week. The judge scheduled another court hearing for June 18.

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- AP

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