Goelman, who’s now in private practice, predicted that the hearing would be rendered unnecessary when a federal jury returns an expected indictment against Tsarnaev. A formal death-penalty decision, Goelman added, will take a while.
Attorney General Eric Holder will make the final call, based on the recommendations of his Review Committee on Capital Cases, assisted by the Justice Department’s Capital Case Unit and the U.S. attorney for Massachusetts.
The head of the Capital Case Unit, P. Kevin Carwile, is a career prosecutor who formerly headed the department’s gang unit. Under Justice Department guidelines, officials will “consult with the family of the victim” before a final death-penalty decision. Officials are supposed to consider the “strength and nature” of the evidence, as well as the “relative” role played by the defendant, and any arguments made by defense attorneys.
“They can offer any kind of mitigating factor,” Goelman said.
Fifty-nine federal death row inmates await execution, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. The 57 men are incarcerated in Terre Haute, Ind., and the two women in Forth Worth, Texas.
The last federal execution occurred in 2003, with various appeals often helping to slow the process.
Bringing a case to trial, too, may take a long time.
In 2003, for instance, Samuel Richard Stone was one of three convicted murderers crowded into a U.S. Penitentiary Atwater cell that was designed to hold no more than two inmates. Early in the morning of July 12, prosecutors say, Stone attacked one of his cellmates, Michael Anita.
“A rope made of what appeared to be braided strips of a bedsheet was wrapped around (Anita’s) neck,” according to a defense brief filed this Monday. “He had been stabbed in the chest and had bruises on his head and face.”
Prosecutors waited until last year to file charges against Stone. The trial is expected to start next year. Another example of a trial delay involved the June 2008 killing of Atwater correctional Officer Jose Rivera, in the prison about 60 miles north of Fresno. Though charges were filed within two months, various proceedings have postponed the trial of suspects Joseph Cabrera Sablan and James Ninete Leon Guerrero until next year.
“It’s probably going to take a while,” Dieter said of the Boston case. “There are lots of steps.”