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Boston bomber: How they caught him (2015)
02:44 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's defense attorneys and federal prosecutors have spoken but failed to reach a plea deal

One of the biggest outstanding questions of the trial is whether Tsarnaev will get the death penalty or life without parole

Attorney General Eric Holder is a critic of the death penalty, but he authorized seeking capital punishment in this case

Washington CNN  — 

As accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev goes on trial Monday few doubt the outcome of the first phase of the two-phase trial. It’s the second, the sentencing phase, including a possible death sentence, that has been the subject of behind the scenes discussions.

Federal prosecutors and defense attorneys for Tsarnaev have held talks on a possible plea agreement but failed to reach one, U.S. officials familiar with the talks say.

The discussions in recent months have centered on the possibility of Tsarnaev pleading guilty and receiving a life sentence without parole, according to the officials.

13 things you should know about the trial

But the talks have reached an impasse because the Justice Department has resisted removing the death penalty as a possibility, these officials say.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney in Boston declined to comment. Attorney Judy Clarke, who represents Tsarnaev, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The outcome so far is unusual for Clarke who helped negotiate plea deals that saved the lives of notorious criminals including 9/11 plotter Zacarias Moussaoui, Unabomber Ted Kaczynski and Jared Loughner, who carried out the mass shooting that killed six and gravely injured former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

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