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Judge sets November trial for accused Boston bomber

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BOSTON (Reuters) - A judge on Wednesday ordered the accused Boston Marathon bomber to face trial in November, denying his attorneys the extra time they had sought to prepare his defense on charges involving the largest mass-casualty attack on U.S. soil since 9/11.

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Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 20, a native of Russia's restive Chechnya region, could be executed if convicted of killing three people and injuring 264 with a pair of homemade pressure-cooker bombs in the April 15, 2013 attack. He is also accused of shooting dead a university police officer three days later, as he and his brother tried to flee the area after they were identified as suspects.

U.S. District Judge George O'Toole said jury selection would begin on November 3, well ahead of the September 2015 start that the defense had requested. Defense attorneys had asked for time to review massive amounts of evidence collected by the government during its investigation.

Last month, prosecutors said they would seek to have Tsarnaev, who moved to the United States a decade ago, put to death if he is convicted of charges including use of a weapon of mass destruction.

Tsarnaev, who is being held in a prison west of Boston and was not in court on Wednesday, has pleaded not guilty to all charges. His attorneys have not yet said if they will seek to have his trial moved from U.S.

District Court in Boston, just 2 miles from the spot where the bombs ripped through a crowd of spectators at the race's crowded finish line.

The trial, which will draw intense international attention, will pit prosecutors from the office of U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, who last year convicted gangster James "Whitey" Bulger, against a defense team including top Boston public defender Miriam Conrad and Judy Clarke, a death penalty defense specialist from California.

Tsarnaev and his 26-year-old brother, Tamerlan, are accused of planting the bombs, which killed three people including an 8-year-old boy, Martin Richard.

Three days after the bombing, FBI investigators released surveillance photos showing the pair, wearing baseball caps and carrying backpacks, near the site of the blast. That prompted the pair to attempt a hasty escape from Boston.

Authorities say they shot a Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus police officer in an unsuccessful attempt to steal his weapon, an incident that sparked a car chase and gun battle with police that ended with Tamerlan dead.

Dzhokhar escaped that encounter, prompting a day-long lockdown of most of the Boston area until police found him, hiding in a dry-docked boat in a suburban backyard, on the evening of April 19.

Three college friends of the defendant are due to go on trial in June, charged with obstructing the investigation by removing a laptop and backpack containing fireworks casings from his dorm room at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, about 60 miles south of Boston.

In addition to Richard, 8, the marathon bombs killed Krystle Campbell, 29, and Chinese national Lu Lingzi, 23. Tsarnaev is also accused in the shooting death of Sean Collier, 27, the university police officer.

(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by David Gregorio)

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