A federal judge ruled Wednesday that “betrayal of the United States” should not be a factor in considering whether Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev gets the death penalty if convicted.
A U.S. District Court judge said it was “highly inappropriate” for prosecutors to draw a distinction between a “naturalized” and “natural-born” U.S. citizen.
Federal prosecutors have argued, in part, that Tsarnaev, a 20-year-old Russian-born immigrant, deserves the death penalty because he betrayed his allegiance to the U.S., which gave his family asylum and citizenship more than a decade ago.
Tsarnaev’s attorneys have said that argument is unprecedented in death penalty cases.
“(I)n not one of the 492 cases before Mr. Tsarnaev’s has the government cited the fact of a defendant’s American citizenship, the way he became a citizen, any aspect of his immigration history, or his enjoyment of the freedoms of an American citizen as a reason to sentence him to death,” they wrote in a May filing.
Prosecutors say Tsarnaev and his brother, Tamerlan, planted two bombs that exploded near the finish line of the 2013 marathon, killing three people and injured about 260 others. Tamerlan died following a shootout with police several days later.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty to 30 federal charges. His trial is expected to begin in November.
The judge also denied a request by Tsarnaev’s lawyers to allow them to meet with their client and his sisters in prison without federal agents present. Instead, he accepted a compromise offered by prosecutors: assigning an agent or other federal official not related to the case, strictly for security.
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