Belfast Telegraph

Home News World

Bomb suspect 'may blame brother'

Boston Marathon bomb suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's lawyers may try to save him from the death penalty by arguing he fell under the murderous influence of his older brother, legal experts say.

The outlines of a possible defence came into focus this week when it was learned that Tsarnaev's lawyers were trying to get access to investigative records implicating his now-dead brother in a grisly triple murder committed in 2011.

In court papers filed on Monday, federal prosecutors acknowledged publicly for the first time that a friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev told investigators that he participated in the unsolved killings of three men who found in a Waltham, Massachusetts, apartment with their throats slit and marijuana sprinkled over their bodies.

The younger Tsarnaev's lawyers argued in court papers that any evidence of Tamerlan's involvement was "mitigating information" that was critical as they prepared Dzhokhar's defence. 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, over the twin bombings April 15 that killed three people and injured more than 260. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, died in a gun battle with police days later.

The government is still deciding whether to pursue the death penalty for the attack, which investigators say was retaliation for the US wars in Muslim lands.

Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Centre, said the defence may be trying to show that the older brother was the guiding force.

"If I was a defence 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," he said.

"I would take the position that my client, the younger brother, was strongly influenced by his older brother, and even if he is culpable, the death penalty is too extreme in this case."

Aitan Goelman, who was part of the legal team that prosecuted Oklahoma City bombing figures Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, said: "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."

Miriam Conrad, Tsarnaev's public defender, had no comment.

Investigators have given no motive for the 2011 slayings. One victim was a boxer and friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev's.

Friends of those killed have said they gave Tsarnaev's name to investigators at the time. That has raised questions of whether authorities missed an opportunity to prevent a bigger tragedy.

Federal prosecutors said in court papers that Ibragim Todashev, another friend of Tamerlan's, told authorities that Tamerlan took part in the killings. Todashev was shot dead in Florida in May by authorities while being questioned.

Prosecutors argued that turning over the records would damage the investigation into the killings.

AP

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph