Attorneys for 20-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev argued in federal
court that the defendant should be able to meet with his sisters
without being monitored by an FBI agent cooperating with
prosecutors, and needs access to more information investigators have
gathered on his dead brother to mount a full defense to charges that
carry the threat of execution.
Tsarnaev is accused of planting two homemade bombs with his brother
at the finish line of the April 15, 2013, Boston Marathon, killing
three people and injuring 264 and, three days later, in the shooting
death of a university police officer.
"Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is the youngest of three children. The eldest,
Tamerlan, is dead and that leaves his two sisters," defense attorney
David Bruck said in U.S. District Court in Boston. "The search for
understanding what happened is in a large measure the story of this
family and the relations between the people in it. It is our job to
consider it and to learn about it."
Bruck argued that allowing an agent with the Federal Bureau of
Investigation to monitor meetings between Tsarnaev, his sisters and
attorneys, and pass the content of those meetings to prosecutors had
limited the defendant's willingness to speak freely.
Legal experts have said that showing Tsarnaev as having normal
relations with his family, and having been to some degree dominated
by 26-year-old Tamerlan, could serve to reduce his blame in the
largest mass-casualty attack on U.S. soil since September 11, 2001.
That, in turn, could increase his odds of avoiding execution if he
is convicted, they have said.
District Judge George O'Toole said he was inclined to grant the
request and urged prosecutors and defense attorneys to develop a
plan to allow him to meet with family without having his comments
passed to prosecutors.
"My interest in this question is not a
broad one, but whether it could work in inhibiting the development
of the defense case, and I think in this instance it does," O'Toole
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Prosecutors also argued against the defense's request to see more of
the government's files of a Chechen immigrant shot dead in Florida
last year when he attacked agents investigating a 2011 triple murder
in which the elder Tsarnaev was a suspect.
"Unless there is something in there that somehow relates to Dzhokhar
Tsarnaev ... it seems to have no relevance," said Assistant U.S.
Attorney William Weinreb.
O'Toole declined to rule on the matter immediately, asking to review
the confession that FBI agents had been taking from Ibragim Todashev
prior to the shooting, before he made a decision.
Tsarnaev, who is being held in a prison outside Boston, was not
present in court on Wednesday. One of the people injured in the
attack, Marc Fucarile, who lost his right leg, attended the
conference but declined to speak with reporters afterward.
Ethnic Chechens, the Tsarnaev family immigrated to the United States
about a decade before the attack.
(Reporting by Scott Malone; editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Gunna
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