Federal prosecutors may seek a life sentence instead of the death penalty if Boston bomb suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev resumes providing investigators information about the attacks, two government sources told CNN.
The talks between prosecutors and Tsarnaev’s defense team are in a “preliminary, delicate stage,” said the sources, who didn't want to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the discussions.
The “public safety exemption” to Miranda rights was executed shortly after Tsarnaev was captured. The suspect was described as being cooperative with federal officials until he was told of his right to remain silent and seek a lawyer. The government hasn't said if it will seek the death penalty in this case.
Tsarnaev, 19, was charged last week with use of a weapon of mass destruction and malicious destruction of property resulting in death. The death penalty can be sought under both charges.
He's accused of helping execute the Boston Marathon bombings on April 15 that killed three people and wounded more than 260. His brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, who was also a suspect died in a shootout with authorities on April 19.
The younger Tsarnaev escaped from the shootout and eluded authorities for much of the day before being found the night of April 19 hiding in a boat in the backyard of a home in the Boston suburb of Watertown, Mass.
The potential no-death-penalty deal emerged as new details came to light about Tsarnaev’s legal team, which will be led by Miriam Conrad, chief federal public defender for Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. She will be joined by prominent San Diego-based attorney and death penalty opponent Judy Clarke, who has extensive experience in such high-profile death penalty cases as the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski and Tucson, Ariz., shooter Jared Loughner. They both received life sentences instead of the death penalty.
Conrad, 56, helped gain an acquittal in 2004 for a Saudi man who was charged with carrying three sparklers in his luggage at Boston’s Logan Airport. She argued that the defendant, a biomedical engineer, was unaware that the sparklers were in his luggage.
“This guy is no more a terrorist than Pope John Paul,” she said at trial, according to the Associated Press.
She's “as tenacious as they come” Joshua Levy, a former U.S. attorney who argued cases against Conrad, said.
"I always found her to be very smart and focused on whatever she perceived as chinks in the armor in the government's case. She would zone in on that,” Levy told the AP.
Meanwhile, David Hoose, an attorney in Northampton, Mass., described Clarke as “simply the best” and several peers said her ability to understand the emotional divide among Americans over the death penalty will be an asset to Tsarnaev's team.
"She has an ability to relate to people who are charged with these horrific, horrific crimes and to humanize them, to portray them as human beings to the government and to a jury," he said.