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Suspected LAX gunman due back in court next month

Created: 12/08/2014 2:22 PM KAALtv.com
By: By BRIAN MELLEY

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The choice of whether to seek the death penalty against the man charged in a deadly shooting rampage at Los Angeles International Airport is up to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and federal prosecutors said Monday they hope to announce his decision next month.

"At this time we do not have a decision from the attorney general whether this will be a death penalty case," Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald told a judge in Los Angeles federal court.

Paul Ciancia, 24, has pleaded not guilty to murder and other charges in the killing of a Transportation Security Administration officer and the wounding of three other people last year at LAX.

Ciancia, 24, a New Jersey native, sat quietly between his public defenders in a white jail uniform with his hands shackled at his waist during the short hearing.

Prosecutors sent a recommendation in August to the U.S. Department of Justice about whether Ciancia should be executed for the Nov. 1, 2103, shootings, though they have declined to reveal what they recommended.

Defense lawyers were allowed to present their case to a capital crimes unit at the Justice Department in September, and a review committee sent its recommendation to Holder last month, Fitzgerald said.

At a hearing in August, federal prosecutors said they hoped to have a decision from Holder by the middle of November.

Holder's office made a similar decision about nine months after the Boston Marathon bombing, deciding to seek the death penalty in that case.

Fitzgerald said outside court that the 13 months since the LAX shooting does not necessarily indicate a delay. He said the decision is one that takes significant time.

Holder declined to discuss the Ciancia case at a news conference in Los Angeles in October.

Judge Philip Gutierrez has said he wants the case to go to trial next year.

A death penalty case could prolong the matter, complicating jury selection and extending the length of trial.

Defense lawyers have said they may need more time because of the volume of evidence and witnesses. Prosecutors said they shared 10,000 pieces of evidence and 150 DVDs with the defense.

(Copyright 2014 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)