November Trial Date Set For Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Here's Why the Case Might Be Over Before Then.

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Feb. 12 2014 10:36 AM

November Trial Date Set For Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Why the Case Might Be Over Before Then.

168486581-man-reads-a-placard-in-support-to-dzhokhar-tsarnaev-in
A man reads a placard in support to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in Grozny on May 10, 2013.

Photo by Elena Fitkulina/AFP/Getty Images

Rebuffing his lawyers' request, a federal judge has set the trial date for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev for November 3. The date was set during a status hearing in Boston federal court Wednesday. On Monday, Tsarnaev's lawyers had filed a report requesting that the trial start no earlier than September 2015.
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Attorney General Eric Holder announced late last month that the U.S. government will seek the death penalty for Tsarnaev. That decision came more than nine months after the twin bombings at the Boston Marathon, and the ensuing manhunt that ultimately ended with Tsarnaev in custody and his older brother, Tamerlan, dead. Today's announcement sets a trial date for what is the highest-profile federal death penalty case since Timothy McVeigh, who was executed for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

Still, as I've explained before, there's a long way to go between today and Tsarnaev's trial, let alone potential execution. In nearly half of federal death penalty cases, prosecutors eventually withdraw the threat of capital punishment before trial, more often than not as part of a plea deal, according to the Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel. And, as the New York Times noted last month, only three people have been put to death by the U.S. government since the federal death penalty was reinstated in 1988. Also working in Dzhokhar's favor is his legal team, which includes Judy Clarke, a defense lawyer with an unmatched record of keeping high-profile public enemies off of death row.

***Follow @JoshVoorhees and the rest of the @slatest team on Twitter.***

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

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