Death penalty protocol focus of Mass. bomb hearing

BOSTON (AP) — Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will ask a judge to discuss the timeline and procedure for prosecutors to decide whether to seek the death penalty.

A joint status report filed in court says the defense wants the court to address “the death penalty protocol” in federal court on Monday.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will ultimately make the decision about whether to seek the federal death penalty, but the U.S. attorney’s office in Boston will make a recommendation. Tsarnaev’s attorneys also have the right to make the case against the death penalty.

Tsarnaev, 20, is accused in twin bombings that killed three people and injured more than 260 others at the April 15 marathon. He’s also accused of killing a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer while on the run three days later.

Prosecutors say Tsarnaev and his brother, Tamerlan, built and planted pressure cooker bombs near the finish line of the marathon.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, died following a shootout with police several days later. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was wounded in the shootout and later captured hiding in a bloodstained boat in a suburban backyard after a manhunt that paralyzed much of the Boston area. He has pleaded not guilty to 30 federal charges, including using a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death and 16 other charges that carry the possibility of the death penalty.

Massachusetts does not have a state death penalty.

Prosecutors say Tsarnaev, an ethnic Chechen from Russia, wrote about his motivation for the bombing on the inside of the boat, scrawling that the U.S. government was “killing our innocent civilians.” Authorities say he also wrote: “We Muslims are one body, you hurt one you hurt us all.”

Tsarnaev isn’t expected to be in court for Monday’s status conference.

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