By Denise Lavoie
BOSTON — Federal prosecutors refused to say whether they have recommended the death penalty for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as they reached a deadline Thursday to send their proposal to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
Prosecutors from the office of Massachusetts' U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz have said in court they planned to send their recommendation to Holder by Oct. 31.
They would not reveal their recommendation as the self-imposed deadline approached. A spokeswoman for Ortiz said the Department of Justice's death penalty process is strictly confidential.
Prosecutors have said they expect Holder — who has the ultimate say — to make his decision by the end of January.
Tsarnaev, 20, is charged with using a weapon of mass destruction and 29 other federal charges. The April 15 bombing killed three people and injured more than 260. Seventeen of the charges carry the possibility of the death penalty.
Prosecutors had asked Tsarnaev's lawyers to submit their own arguments against the death penalty to them by Oct. 24 so they could be included in the proposal they send to Holder. The defense team asked a judge to order prosecutors to give them more time, but the judge refused, saying he did not have the authority to get involved in the Justice Department's internal deliberations on the death penalty.
Prosecutors allege that Tsarnaev and his brother Tamerlan, 26, built two pressure cooker bombs and placed them near the marathon's finish line. Tamerlan Tsarnaev died following a shootout with police several days after the bombings.
Authorities say Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, an ethnic Chechen from Russia who moved to the United States as a child, wrote about his motivation for the bombing on the inside of a boat he was found hiding in after the shootout. "The U.S. Government is killing our innocent civilians" and "We Muslims are one body, you hurt us all," he allegedly wrote.
Miriam Conrad, one of Tsarnaev's lawyers, would not comment on the Oct. 31 deadline.
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Copyright 2013 The Associated Press