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April 20, 2013

Prosecutors move quickly to build Marathon case

WASHINGTON —

The Obama administration has a range of legal options in the Boston Marathon bombings, and they could include seeking the death penalty against the 19-year-old suspect in the case.

The administration has indicated it intends to move quickly to build a criminal case against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. But investigators plan to first question him without informing him of his legal rights to remain silent and have an attorney present.

Several Republican lawmakers on Saturday criticized the administration's approach because they said it would afford Tsarnaev more rights than he deserves. The federal public defender for Massachusetts called for the quick appointment of a lawyer to represent Tsarnaev because of serious issues involving his interrogation in the absence of a lawyer.

Prosecution of Tsarnaev in federal court would seem a natural course for an administration that previously won a life sentence against Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab of Nigeria for trying to blow up a packed jetliner using a bomb sewn into his underwear on Christmas Day 2009.

The administration also will put Osama bin Laden's son-in-law on trial in January on charges that he conspired to kill Americans in his role as al-Qaida's chief spokesman.

As a U.S. citizen, Tsarnaev could not be tried by a military commission under current law; the only option for prosecuting an American is in civilian courts. A federal official with knowledge of the case said Tsarnaev was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in September 2012. The official was not authorized to speak publicly about details of the case and requested anonymity.

Tsarnaev was under armed guard at a Boston hospital and was reported in serious condition and unable to be interrogated Saturday. He has yet to be charged but prosecutors appear to have no shortage of federal laws at their disposal.

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