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Dec 8, 3:52 PM EST

Attorney general still undecided on whether to seek death penalty in LA airport gunman case

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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 faced a similar decision in the Boston Marathon bombing, deciding to seek the death penalty about nine months after the crime.

Although it's been 13 months since the LAX shooting, that doesn't necessarily indicate a delay, Fitzgerald said outside court. He said the decision takes significant time.

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

Federal prosecutors will ask Holder's office to make a decision in advance of a Jan. 5 hearing.

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 with the defense.

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