Tsarnaev trial set for Nov. 3

Originally published Feb. 12 in the Cambridge Chronicle.

Federal court judge George O’Toole set a trial date of Nov. 3 for the case against suspected Boston Marathon bombing suspect and Cambridge resident Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, despite urgings from defense attorneys that the date wouldn’t give them enough time to prepare his defense.

Defense attorney Judy Clark said it was a “laboriously slow and cumbersome process” getting evidence from the government, and it wasn’t her team that was dragging their feet.

“We’re really having a hard time getting access to information,” Clark said at the Feb. 12 hearing at the Moakley Federal Courthouse in Boston.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Aloke Chakravarty said they had already given the defense team six to seven terabytes of digital data, but some of the physical evidence is in Quantico, Va., where the U.S. Marine Corps has a base. Chakravarty said the way the defense was asking for evidence was not conducive to a timely response.

“It does contribute to an additional time lapse,” Chakravarty said.

Defense attorney Miriam Conrad balked at the government’s position, saying under the local rules the government is expected to respond within two weeks to requests for evidence. It took them nearly two months to get a response from their last request, she said.

“We got radio silence from Dec. 18 to Feb. 7,” Conrad said. “With that kind of response, I don’t know how we could possibly move forward.”

O’Toole asked the prosecution to provide the defense with a catalogue of all the evidence available, which prosecutors and defense attorneys said contains 1,500-2,000 pieces of evidence.

O’Toole urged both sides to limit all of the possible evidence they could present in the trial. According to a court document filed jointly by both the prosecution and defense on Feb. 10, the trial is expected to take three months, with the sentencing phase lasting an additional six weeks. O’Toole cautioned both sides from presenting the “unnecessary accumulation of irrelevant information.”

“This is undoubtedly going to be a lengthy trial,” O’Toole said. “You should keep in mind that not everything that can be presented needs to be presented, necessarily.”

Defense attorneys will have until the end of the summer to request a change of venue for the trial outside of Boston. The next status conference is scheduled for June. 18.

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