Evidence mounts against lone survivor

Marathon bomb suspect faces uphill battle defending act of terror
Associated Press
Apr 24, 2013

There are photos of the suspect at the bomb scene, video footage of him dropping a knapsack at the site of one of the blasts, and perhaps most incriminating could be the written words of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev himself during questioning in a Boston hospital. A case with evidence like this may be the toughest challenge a lawyer can face: defending someone accused of an act of terror so horrific a nation cries out for swift, severe punishment.

Attorneys who handle terrorism and other notorious cases say public opinion is stacked against the defense for obvious reasons. Acts of terrorism unleash an outpouring of anger from the public, including potential jurors. In Boston, the circumstances are especially egregious: Three people, including an 8-year-old boy, died in the twin blasts, more than 260 were injured, and a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer was later fatally shot.

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Some lawyers say that in this case, the surveillance evidence and a police shootout make a "he wasn't there" innocence claim untenable — and keeping Tsarnaev out of the execution chamber may itself be a triumph.

"The reality is you just try to save his life," said Thomas A. Durkin, a Chicago lawyer who has defended several terrorism suspects, including Ramzi bin al Shibh, one of the alleged plotters in the 9/11 attacks now being held in Guantanamo.

Durkin said there are several steps the defense can take: Hire top-notch investigators, look for possible psychiatric issues or brain damage and scour for potential vulnerabilities in how the government collected evidence. But he said the biggest hurdles for lawyers, clearly, are the bombings and the ensuing horror.

"It's just an unspeakable crime," Durkin said. "It strikes at the heart of a free society. It strikes fear into everyone. It's just an awful, awful situation — people standing, watching a race one second and having no feet after that. I can't imagine worse evidence."

Frank Rubino, a Miami defense attorney who represented former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega on drug conspiracy charges, agreed it wouldn't make sense to deny the younger Tsarnaev's involvement, but attorneys could try to spare his life by focusing on his age — 19 — and possible coercion by his older brother, Tamerlan, 26, who was killed Friday in a fierce police shootout.

"To take this case to trial and argue that he didn't plant the bomb and someone else did it would be futile," Rubino said in an email. "The evidence of both flight from the police and the shootout will come in evidence as 'consciousness of guilt.' How can one explain that conduct? Innocent people don't throw bombs at the cops, shoot it out with the cops and hide."

Tsarnaev was charged Monday with using a weapon of mass destruction to kill in the April 15 bombings. He could face the death penalty if convicted. He was questioned in his Boston hospital room by a special interrogation team for high-value suspects.

Two U.S. officials said preliminary evidence from that interrogation suggests the brothers were motivated by religious extremism but apparently were not involved with Islamic terrorist groups. Tsarnaev communicated with his interrogators in writing, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly.

An FBI affidavit released Monday reveals incriminating evidence against Tsarnaev, including surveillance-camera footage that shows him raising his mobile phone to his ear just before the two blasts. After the first explosion, a block away, as the horrified crowd turned in that direction, he appeared calm. He then quickly walked away, leaving a knapsack on the ground. About 10 seconds later, the FBI said, a bomb blew up where he'd been standing.

Authorities also have said they found a "large pyrotechnic" and BB pellets during a search of his dorm room at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth on Sunday. Among the shrapnel that struck victims were BBs.

It's far too soon to say what defense strategy Tsarnaev's lawyers will use. The federal public defender for Massachusetts, Miriam Conrad, has been appointed to represent him. Conrad is expected to be the lead attorney, but the office will bring in at least one, if not two lawyers, with death penalty experience.

Thomas H. Dupree Jr., a Washington, D.C., lawyer, says in most cases with so much evidence, the defense might consider an insanity defense, but that would be very difficult here. "This appears to be a carefully calculated, malevolent plot," he said.

Without that option, he said the defense could seek to enter a guilty plea in a deal to avoid the death penalty. "They may make the argument that he was not the ringleader and was under the spell of his brother," Dupree said. "I don't know how successful that would be."

The focus now should be on gathering the facts, he said. "If you're his lawyer you want to find out if there are any mitigating circumstances that might change the public view of him," Dupree added. "If the facts turn out to be what we see now, their focus should be on saving his life."

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Associated Press writers Curt Anderson in Miami, Linda Deutsch in Los Angeles and Denise Lavoie in Boston contributed to this report.

 

Comments

Contango

"Tsarnaev was charged Monday with using a weapon of mass destruction to kill in the April 15 bombings."

WMD?

The liberals have in the past excoriated Pres. Bush over WMD in Iraq.

Obviously taking the above into consideration, (by definition), there WAS WMD in Iraq as well.

What a MARVELOUS pratfall by the clowns in the circus of lefty political correctness.

4shizzle

Like always, you are wrong, clowntango.

Bluto

WMD , Is a vague term . If it can kill more then two people at once , then it can be considered a WMD . W. Bush used this scary term to con the American people into supporting a war , so I wouldn't make it out to be just a left or right kind of issue .

Contango

By definition the argument stands.

arnmcrmn

Contango is right. In a court of law, it would stand.

Mime Bloggling's picture
Mime Bloggling

Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, the mother of Boston Marathon bombers Tamerlan and Tzhokhar Tsarnaevso, made these shocking statements on CNN tonight:

“If they are going to kill him. I don’t care. My oldest son is killed, so I don’t care. I don’t care if my youngest son is going to be killed today. I want the world to hear this. And, I don’t care if I am going to get killed too. And I will say Allahu Akbar!“

http://www.thegatewaypundit.com/...

deertracker

I just don't get the feeling we are dealing with "radical terrorists" in this case. Seems more like one nutcase leading his younger brother astray. I THINK THE MEDIA IS WAY OVER HYPING THIS. In a free and open society you can expect more of the same. The WMD we were lied to that was supposedly in Iraq was suppose to come in the form of a mushroom cloud. Remember? Let's not compare apples to oranges.

4shizzle

"The WMD we were lied to that was supposedly in Iraq was suppose to come in the form of a mushroom cloud. Remember? Let's not compare apples to oranges."

Exactly right! The definition has been changed.

4shizzle

Viewer Alert: This is from a Democratic news show.

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/263159...

SamAdams

Actually, I believe at the time the primary concern was over chemical weapons...

Contango

"Bush, Obama now tied at 47 percent approval":

http://washingtonexaminer.com/bu...

Contango

"Tamerlan Tsarnaev Actually Was On US Government Lists Of Potential Terrorists":

http://www.businessinsider.com/t...

Increasingly, the Obama Admin. looks like the gang that can't shoot straight.

Other than givin' "after-the-fact" eulogies, campaign fund raisers and golfin', Pres. Obama is pretty much as good as a third rate buffoon in the leadership dept.

Bluto

So , You're running for president then Contango , since you can do so much better ? I look forward to hearing about your platform on how you intend to save the world .

4shizzle

well said

4shizzle

Take your hate and lies somewhere else, Clowntango.

goofus

And your link to Rachael Madcow the lamestream media's lesbian showgirl didn't have a little hate invloved

4shizzle

Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Off-topic comments.

Bluto

It's a good thing you brought up her sexuality , because that was real important in getting your point across . 8 P

Kimo

Re: "Lists Of Potential Terrorists"

Those "Government Employees" don't change with a new administration. The man at the top changes, the men in field don't. By the time the man at the top figures out where the restrooms and water fountains are, he is replaced by the incoming administration.

My WAG is that "list" has a few million names and it is near impossible to keep track of all the kooks on the list.
.

4shizzle

Funny and true.

What does WAG mean?

SamAdams

You're right, Kimo, the only MATERIAL changes tend to be the man at the top and, of course, the policies concerning what to do with whatever information is archived/gathered.

While you're also almost certainly right about the number of names on the "list," there's something even more troubling: A lot of those names are wrong. Remember when Ted Kennedy was stopped -- more than once -- at an airport because HE was on the list? He was eventually able to get his name removed, but the average Joe can't, even when he's just an average Joe.

Meanwhile, the TSA searches five year-olds and grannies; political correctness demands we don't pay particular attention to ethnicity or religion; and history indicates we're perfectly willing to disregard credible warnings or other information coming from allies (or even MAYBE "friends" like Russia). Such warnings were ignored under the Bush administration, and they're clearly being ignored under the Obama administration.

Yes, the authorities caught their man. But if agencies worked together, foreign intelligence was considered more seriously, and ethnicity and/or religion were duly added to the criteria and given the weight deserved, the Boston Marathon bombings might not have happened at ALL!

deertracker

I disagree with you on part of this. What warnings were ignored? The guy was questioned and investigated by the FBI. His supposed radicalization happened after the initial questioning. Let's put the blame where it belongs. The guys who constructed and set off the bombs. In no way is this the fault of the Obama administration. A lot of commenters were quick to point out that President Obama deserves no credit for their captures but want to blame him for the attack. Your memory is failing you about WMD in Iraq. America was never under any threat of attack by Iraq with chemical weapons or WMD for that matter. Let's not rewrite history!

SamAdams

What warnings were ignored? Russian intelligence and a six-month training trip to Russia.

Is the bombing Obama's fault? No. He didn't catch them, he didn't radicalize them or assist them, either. But is there the potential that authorities could have caught up to this plot sooner? Yes.

I never suggested that America was under any threat of a direct attack by Iraq. I responded to the post saying that nukes were a WMD concern. Although nukes must certainly be on the periphery of any discussion concerning a hostile nuclear power, the primary concern (at the time) was chemical weapons, and it was suggested mostly that they'd be used against Iraqi citizens or neighbors in the Middle East. I never asserted or even implied otherwise.

My memory isn't failing, but your reading comphrension might be!

deertracker

No your is or you can't hear the news. The guy was investigated. Chemical weapons were just another part of the lie. Ask Colin Powell! IT WAS ALL A LIE! Comprende?????

Contango

Yea, "IT WAS ALL A LIE!"

Tell that to the 5,000 dead Kurds and their grieving families.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-...

SamAdams

Even if it WAS later learned to be a lie (and it wasn't — the fate of many Kurds is a matter of FACT, not conjecture), the point remains valid: At the time, the concern was chemical weapons. What part of "at the time" are you incapable of grasping? Or are you pulling a Hillary on us and just deciding "at this point, what does it matter?"

arnmcrmn

Sam, thats what liberals do best....deflect and start a fire somewhere else to get you off topic.

Contango

Yea, "Let's not rewrite history!" :)

The U.S. was "technically" at war with Saddam for yrs. The Iraqis fired SAMs frequently at Coalition aircraft and their aircraft often violated the No-Fly Zone:

http://books.google.com/books?id...

Pres. Obama is a eulogy readin', campaign fund raisin', golf playin' "faultless" puppet.

goofus

Yes, let's not rewrite history, the Kurds in Northern Iraq were sprayed with pixie dust from tinkerbell!!!!

goofus

Yes, let's not rewrite history, the jetliner found in Salman Park area of Iraq was not used for training terrorists but was a kiddie ride

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