Boston suspect may blame sibling's influence
BOSTON — Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's lawyers might try to save him from the death penalty in the Boston Marathon bombing by arguing that he fell under the murderous influence of his older brother, legal experts say.
The outlines of a possible defense came into focus this week, when it was learned that Tsarnaev's attorneys are trying to get access to investigative records implicating the now-dead brother, Tamerlan, in a grisly triple slaying in 2011.
In court papers Monday, federal prosecutors acknowledged publicly for the first time that a friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev told investigators that Tamerlan participated in the unsolved killings of three men who were found in a Waltham, Mass., apartment with their throats slit and marijuana sprinkled over their bodies. The motive remains unknown.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's lawyers argued in court papers that any evidence of Tamerlan's involvement is “mitigating information” that is critical as they prepare his defense. They asked a judge to force prosecutors to turn over the records.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 20, faces 30 federal charges, including using a weapon of mass destruction, in the twin bombings April 15 that killed three people and injured more than 260. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, died in a gunbattle with police days later.
The government is deciding whether to pursue the death penalty in the marathon attack, which investigators say was in retaliation for the U.S. wars in Muslim lands.
Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said the defense might be trying to show that Tamerlan was the guiding force.
“If I was a defense attorney and was seeking perhaps to draw attention to the influence the older brother had in planning the bombing, I would use his involvement in other crimes to show that he was likely the main perpetrator in the Boston bombing,” Dieter said.
“I would take the position that my client, the younger brother, was strongly influenced by his older brother, and that even if he is culpable, the death penalty is too extreme in this case,” he said.
Similarly, Aitan D. Goelman — part of the legal team that prosecuted Oklahoma City bombing figures Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols — said the defense might be looking to minimize the younger brother's role in the bombing.
“I think the most likely reason is that if they are arguing some kind of mitigation theory, that the older brother was a monster and the younger brother was under his sway or intimidated or dominated by him,” he said.
Miriam Conrad, public defender for Tsarnaev, had no comment.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Death Valley ‘sailing rocks’ linked to freeze-warm cycle
- Ferguson sued over police actions amid riots
- Arizona county clears girl shooter in gun range death
- Study examines body’s bacteria on move indoors
- Feds strip Oklahoma of education funding decisions
- Va.’s first couple, former Gov. and Mrs. McDonnell, often together, FBI agent testifies
- Invasive species in Great Lakes partially blamed on anglers
- Southern Calif. high surf expected to subside today
- Obama backs off immigration vow
- Judge reaffirms Texas’ ‘Robin Hood’ system of school funding unconstitutional
- AFL-CIO’s Trumka urges action to push the political left to polls