Both sides in the case of alleged Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will be scouring thousands of FBI interviews and other evidence. Also, the Justice Department will undertake a lengthy process to decide if it will seek the death penalty.
The short answer is awhile – at least a year, maybe more, before legal experts think both the government and the defense would be ready.
Both sides will be scouring thousands of interviews by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, hundreds of hours of forensic laboratory work, and who knows how many hours of images sent in by individuals to law enforcement. On top of that, the defense might make pretrial challenges that would have to be decided before the trial starts. And both sides will be asking experts to help them understand the psychological makeup of the 19-year-old Mr. Tsarnaev, who could face the death penalty.
“A trial of this complexity – I would be surprised if it goes to trial this calendar year,” says Thomas Dupree, a former deputy assistant attorney general and now a partner in the Washington law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.
However, some parts of the case will proceed very quickly. Under federal law, a magistrate judge must hold a preliminary hearing to establish probable cause within 14 days of the initial appearance if the defendant is in custody (as is the case here, with Tsarnaev being charged Monday). Or the government could obtain an indictment, which by itself establishes probable cause.
“They will probably indict fairly soon unless there is a waiver of the preliminary hearing from the defendant,” says James Keneally, a defense lawyer and partner at Kelley Drye & Warren in New York. “They just can’t string it out: They have to indict him, and they may have already gotten a sealed indictment.”
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