Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is the surviving member of a pair of ethnic
Chechen brothers who immigrated to the United States about a decade
ago whom federal prosecutors contend killed three people and injured
more than 260 in the largest mass-casualty attack on U.S. soil since
Sept. 11, 2001. Tsarnaev's 26-year-old brother, Tamerlan, died after
a gunbattle with police three days after the April 15, 2013 bombing.
U.S. District Judge George O'Toole blocked a bid by prosecutors to
cite the fact that Tsarnaev took an oath of loyalty to the United
States when he became a citizen as an aggravating factor in deciding
on the death penalty if he is convicted.
The judge noted that a native-born citizen could not face the same
claim because they do not take such an oath.
"It's unduly prejudicial and I will strike," O'Toole said.
O'Toole also denied a request by lawyers for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 20,
to allow them to meet jointly with their client and his sisters
without having federal agents present.
Defense attorneys had argued that understanding accused Tsarnaev's
relations with his family would be important to making a case that
he does not deserve execution if convicted, saying the presence of a
federal officers prevented normal conversations.
O'Toole instead approved a proposal by prosecutors to have a Federal
Bureau of Investigation agent from outside Boston, who is not
directly involved in the investigation to monitor the meetings at
the prison west of Boston where Tsarnaev is being held.
Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty to the charges. His trial scheduled
to begin in November.
Defense attorneys also face a Wednesday deadline to make their case
to move the trial outside of Boston.
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U.S. laws generally require a person accused of a crime to stand
trial in the district where it was committed. Defendants can seek to
have proceedings moved to another location where potential jurors
may have been less influenced by pretrial publicity.
Another judge at U.S. District Court in Boston last month rejected a
bid to move out of state the upcoming trials of three friends of
Tsarnaev accused of interfering with the investigation by taking a
laptop and backpack from his dormitory room.
The case is USA v. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, U.S. District Court for the
District of Massachusetts No. 13-10200
(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Grant McCool)
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