Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Top lawyer defends Boston suspect

Katherine Russell leaves her lawyers' office in Providence, Rhode Island (AP)

A leading anti-death penalty lawyer who has managed to get life sentences for several high-profile criminals has joined the defence team representing the Boston Marathon bombing suspect.

A judge has approved the appointment of death penalty expert Judy Clarke to defend 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev who is accused of killing three people and injuring more than 260 injured during the April 15 marathon. But judge Marianne Bowler denied a request from Tsarnaev's public defender, Miriam Conrad, to appoint a second death penalty lawyer - David Bruck, a professor at Washington and Lee University School of Law.

Ms Clarke's clients have included the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski who killed three people and injured 23 during a nationwide bombing spree between 1978 and 1995; Susan Smith, a woman who drowned her two children; Atlanta Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph; and most recently Jared Loughner, who shot former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in the head. All received life sentences instead of the death penalty.

She has rarely spoken publicly about her work. However, at a speech last week at a legal conference she talked about how she had been "sucked into the black hole, the vortex" of death penalty cases 18 years ago when she represented Smith.

"I got a dose of understanding human behaviour, and I learned what the death penalty does to us," she said. "I don't think it's a secret that I oppose the death penalty."

In other developments in the Boston case FBI agents visited the home of the in-laws of the suspect's brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and carried away several bags. The brother was killed in a gun battle with police.

And president Barack Obama and Russian president Vladimir Putin discussed terrorism coordination in the wake of the marathon bombings. Mr Obama expressed his "appreciation" for Russia's close cooperation after the attack.

The suspected bombers are Russian natives who moved to the Boston area. Russian authorities told US. officials before the bombings they had concerns about the family, but only revealed details of wiretapped conversations since the attack.

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