In an attempt to spare their client’s life, the defense attorneys representing Boston Marathon bombing suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, are investigating ways in which they can place the blame for the bombing away from Dzhokhar and on his brother instead. The defense on Friday asked a judge to direct that federal prosecutors hand over all FBI evidence that relates to Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the older brother of Dzhokhar. They are hoping that the information gleaned from the files could help them to build a case to present during the November trial that Tamerlan, not Dzhokhar, was the main organizer of the bombing.
Defense attorneys believe that information gained by interviewing the Tsarnaev family and other unnamed sources suggests that the FBI had approached Tamerlan to ask if he would serve as a confidential informant reporting on the Muslim and Chechen communities. This information led the defense lawyers for Dzhokhar to believe that there is a store of information on Tamerlan that the FBI possesses, which could potentially be information that may help their case. In addition, they cite a House Homeland Security Committee report which was released this week that suggests that the government was watching Tamerlan and monitoring his communications in 2011 and perhaps in 2012. The report also indicates that a threat assessment was conducted by the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force on ethnic Chechen Tamerlan after the Russian government alerted US officials in 2011 that Tamerlan was becoming a radical.
The defense on Friday also asked the judge to direct that the prosecutors disclose any plans to present evidence which was obtained during secret surveillance in hopes that such surveillance would show that Tamerlan had begun calling for an Islamic holy war before Dzhokhar, indicating that Tamerlan was the instigator of the Boston Marathon bombing.
Both brothers had previously lived in Kyrgyztan, a former Soviet republic, as well as in Russian. The Tsarnaev family, which consisted of their parents, themselves, and two sisters, moved to Cambridge approximately ten years before the bombing occurred.
Although the office of the Boston FBI did not comment on these claims, they did refer to an October statement released by them which stated that the brothers were not recruited and did not act as FBI informants.
According to court filings by the defense, should Dzhokhar be found guilty, the jury could weigh the amount of responsibility each brother had in planning and carrying out the bombing in deciding his fate. Lawyers believe that Dzhokhar’s sentence would be less if they introduce evidence suggesting that older brother Tamerlan coerced or pressured his younger brother to assist in the bombing, in which it is alleged that the brothers built two homemade bombs using pressure cookers and dropped them near the finish line of the marathon.
At the time of the Boston Marathon bombing, Tamerlan was 26 and Dzhokhar seven years his junior at 19. Four days after the attack, Tamerlan was killed during a police shootout in which Dzhokhar was injured. Soon after, Dzhokhar was arrested. He was charged with using a weapon of mass destruction as well as with 29 other charges to which he has pleaded not guilty. More than 50 percent of the crimes with which he is charged carry a possible death sentence.
The April 15 bombings at the Boston Marathon injured more than 260 people and killed three others. On Monday, prosecutors requested that Dzhokhar’s access to the autopsy photos of the victims be limited to prevent the violation of their rights to privacy and dignity. In their petition, the prosecutors asked the judge to allow Dzhokhar access only to those photos which will be shown at trial.
By Jennifer Pfalz