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Seeking death penalty in Boston case? A long road

Tuesday - 7/9/2013, 3:58pm  ET

FILE - This file photo provided Friday, April 19, 2013 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation shows Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. If the Obama administration seeks the death penalty against Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, it would face a long, difficult legal battle with uncertain prospects for success in a state that hasn’t seen an execution in nearly 70 years. Attorney General Eric Holder will have to decide several months before the start of any trial whether to seek death for Tsarnaev. It is the highest-profile death-penalty decision yet to come before Holder, who personally opposes the death penalty. (AP Photo/Federal Bureau of Investigation, File)

PETE YOST
Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- If the Obama administration tries for the death penalty against Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, it could face a long, difficult legal battle in a state that hasn't seen an execution in nearly 70 years.

Attorney General Eric Holder will have to decide several months before the start of a trial -- if there is one -- whether to seek death for Tsarnaev. It is the highest-profile such decision yet to come before Holder, who personally opposes the death penalty.

Tsarnaev will be arraigned in U.S. District Court in Boston on Wednesday afternoon -- the first public court appearance for the teenager who was found wounded in a boat stored in a suburban backyard after a massive manhunt and a shootout with police in which his brother died last April.

Holder, in making his decision, will get plenty of advice.

"If you have the death penalty and don't use it in this kind of case where someone puts bombs down in crowds of civilians, then in what kind of case do you use it?" said Aitan D. Goelman, who was part of the legal team that prosecuted Oklahoma City bombing figures Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols.

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