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Judge grants Tsarnaev lawyers more time for venue decision

A federal judge has agreed to give lawyers for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the accused Boston Marathon bomber, more time to decide whether to seek a change of venue.

In November, US District Court Judge George A. O’Toole Jr. had set a Feb. 28 deadline for defense lawyers to file any substantive motions, including a motion for a change of venue or a motion to dismiss.

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But lawyers for Tsarnaev argued in a court filing last month that they needed more time to research whether they should seek a change of venue, and, if so, to prepare the request. They argued that their schedule would also be affected by the federal government’s decision on whether it will seek the death penalty in the case.

US Attorney General Eric Holder is slated to decide by the end of this month whether to seek the death penalty.

O’Toole, in a ruling noted Tuesday in the court docket, agreed to vacate the deadline for the change of venue request, but he did not set a new deadline. The judge did not issue a memorandum explaining his decision, and he did not indicate whether the defense team must still meet the Feb. 28 deadline for other substantive motions.

Tsarnaev, 20, faces multiple charges that carry the death penalty if he is convicted of setting off the explosives on April 15 that killed three people and injured more than 260 others. Krystle Campbell, 29; Lingzi Lu, 23; and Martin Richard, 8, were killed. Tsarnaev and his brother are also accused in the fatal shooting of MIT police Officer Sean Collier, 27. The brother, Tamerlan, 26, later died in a firefight with police in Watertown.

Dzokhar Tsarnaev is being held without bail at a federal detention center at Fort Devens in Ayer.

Mike Bello can be reached at mbello@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @thebelloblotter.
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