BOSTON – Attorneys for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev formally requested more time Friday to prepare arguments that their client should not be subject to a potential death sentence.
In a brief filed with the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, the defense told a judge the current Oct. 24 deadline set by the government does not allow for a "reasonable opportunity" to make their case about the death penalty, should it be sought in the case.
Prosecutors allege that Tsarnaev, 20, and his 26-year-old brother Tamerlan built the two pressure cooker bombs that exploded near the finish line of the world-renowned road race on April 15, killing three people and injuring more than 260. Tamerlan Tsarnaev died following a shootout with police days later.
Federal prosecutors have said they plan to make a recommendation by the end of the month to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder about whether the death penalty should be pursued. Holder will have the ultimate say in the matter.
The defense needed more time to review evidence while still requesting additional material from prosecutors, and remains in the "early stages of independent investigation that literally spans the globe," the defense said in its court filing.
"This Court should exercise its inherent scheduling authority to ensure that the defense can make a meaningful presentation, which, in turn, will promote more fair, orderly and, indeed, cost-effective progression of the case," wrote the defense team.
Tsarnaev's lawyers include Judy Clark, a California attorney 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.
The defense brief did not ask Judge George O'Toole to set a new deadline for arguments, instead asking for an indefinite postponement of the current timetable.
A request for comment from the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney's office was not immediately answered.
Assistant U.S. Attorney William Weinreb said during a hearing earlier this week that he believed defense attorneys had already had a reasonable amount of time to respond, noting that the bombings occurred nearly six months ago.
Weinreb also said prosecutors weren't required to wait for input from the defense before making their recommendation to Holder.
Tsarnaev, an ethnic Chechen from Russia, was charged in a 30-count federal indictment, including 17 charges that carry the possibility of the death penalty. He has pleaded not guilty.