Friday, April 18, 2014

Judge Won't Let Boston Bomb Suspect See Evidence on Brother's Recruitment by the FBI

Erik Larson and Janelle Lawrence report for Bloomberg (my highlights)

Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s lawyers, seeking to spare him from the death penalty, lost a bid to force the U.S. to turn over evidence that may show his older brother radicalized him and led the attack.

The request for material about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was killed in a police shootout after the bombing, was denied yesterday in Boston by U.S. District Judge George A. O’Toole Jr., who didn’t elaborate on the decision handed down just days after the one-year anniversary of the terror attack.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 20, is scheduled to go on trial in November for the April 15, 2013, double-bombing near the finish line of the landmark race that killed three people and injured 260. The U.S. Justice department has said it will seek the death penalty for Tsarnaev, a Russian immigrant and former college student, if he’s convicted....

In three separate requests filed March 28, defense lawyers said the U.S. failed to meet requirements to turn over all favorable evidence it has that may persuade a jury to spare Tsarnaev from the death penalty if he’s convicted, such as details of Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s closer ties to extremist elements and greater role in planning the attack.

The defense also said Tamerlan Tsarnaev may have grown paranoid after being approached by federal agents seeking an informant on the Chechen and Muslim communities. The lawyers requested any evidence to bolster that theory, which they attributed to members of Tsarnaev’s family.

According to the defense filing, FBI agents solicited Tamerlan after asking him about his Internet search activities.

“No one other than Tamerlan and the agents involved were actual witnesses to what transpired, and absent verification from the government itself, the defense will have no direct evidence to establish the reasons for these contacts, or their number, nature and content,” Bruck said in the filing requesting the evidence.

Prosecutors told the defense team they had “no evidence” of such contact with the elder Tsarnaev and said they shouldn’t have to turn over the requested files, according to an excerpt of the government’s response included in Bruck’s filing.

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