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Feb-18-2014 15:24printcomments

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Standing Tall Despite Execution Threat

Trial Scheduled for November, No Plea Bargain in Sight.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

(BOSTON) - “Attorney General Eric Holder's January 30th announcement authorizing Federal prosecutors to seek the death penalty for Tsarnaev (if convicted), does not appear to have alarmed attorney's for the accused in any way: In fact, they now appear wholly intent on taking the case to trial,” reports blogger B. Blake.

“This is in stark contrast to virtually all of death penalty lawyer Judy Clarke's previous cases, none of which have ever proceeded to the trial stage. For example, Jared Lee Loughner, Eric Rudolf and bomber Ted Kaczynski all accepted plea deals in their efforts to avoid a trial and face possible execution.

The courtroom was packed on February 12, 2014 for the latest status hearing for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, which lasted about 30 minutes. Several Boston Marathon bombing victims were in attendance, organized by lead prosecutor Carmen Ortiz, who was reportedly very “friendly and familiar with them.” The victims were kept in a separate room from the public before the hearing. MIT Police Chief John DiFava was there, claiming to represent MIT Officer Sean Collier, who was allegedly killed by the Tsarnaev brothers. DiFava is pushing for the death penalty. Many Tsarnaev supporters and media skeptics were also in attendance, as well as the usual throng of journalists.

The crowded courtroom provided witnesses to a lively debate that demonstrated that the government might be overconfident about their sure win. While the prosecution talked, balked and stuttered in boring circles, defense attorneys Judy Clarke and Miriam Conrad were on point and downright entertaining. Prosecutors had not heeded Judge O’Toole’s order from the last hearing to start cooperating with discovery. This naturally cast doubt upon the validity of the prosecution’s case against Tsarnaev.

The issues at hand were the trial schedule and discovery. The defense asked for a September 2015 trial date in order to have enough time to prepare, in light of ongoing government obstructions of discovery, while the prosecution wanted to rush through the legal proceedings and go straight to the penalty phase. On the surface, O’Toole appeared to side with the prosecution, setting a November 2014 trial date, saying, “I think it is appropriate to do some scheduling.”

“The judge probably knows full well that 11/3/14 isn't a realistic trial date but set it in part to keep things moving along,” tweeted Attorney David Frank, managing editor of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.

Judy Clarke explained to the judge, “I understand the court's desire to move this along but I don't see us identifying experts by the time we go to trial.” She pointed out that death penalty trials are broken into two parts: a liability phase and a punishment phase.

US Attorney Aloke Chakravarty answered sourly, “Let's not kid ourselves. The issue here is going to be in the penalty phase."

This degree of prosecutorial arrogance did not come across well. If Tsarnaev is convicted it will be the same jury that will determine if he will live or die.

“I considered Chakravarty’s comment to be totally inappropriate,” stated a court observer named Jane.

Frank tweeted, “If judge forces Tsarnaev to trial before his lawyers are ready, the judge would be creating a whopper of a legal issue on appeal if convicted.”

Clarke complained that they cannot go forward with the case because the government has not been complying with requests for evidence. Defense attorney Miriam Conrad pointed out that the government is supposed to respond to a request within two weeks.

“They said they’d get back to us after the holidays. Apparently their definition of ‘the holidays’ includes Martin Luther King Day!” Ms. Conrad then went on to say that she had been unaware that “the holidays” extended nearly up until President’s Day!

“Chakravarty’s excuse for the delay in providing access to discovery to the defense was that the defense had not been ‘specific’ in regards to what items of evidence they wished to have access to,” reported Jane.

Tsarnaev’s defense team said they had never experienced anything like this.

"We got radio silence from December 18 to February 7," Conrad said. "With that kind of response, I don’t know how we could possibly move forward."

“Discovery in this case has been way outside the norm in my experience," complained Clarke, who has taken on many capital cases.

“We’re really having a hard time getting access to information. Discovery is not completed. It has been a laborious process... slow and cumbersome. When we ask for something they say narrow it down. We do, and then it’s not enough... We can’t get forensic reports. We have no idea where they are going.”

The government has handed over millions of pages of electronic files, but these are still not even labeled, let alone searchable, despite previous court orders. Additionally, the defense is asking for information on how this evidence was gathered.

The FBI is holding some 2,000 pieces of physical evidence in Quantico, Virginia and two other locations. Chakravarty claimed that the defense has had the opportunity to review this evidence, but Clarke responded that she has a “slightly different view” of where the evidence is and how it can be obtained. The FBI keeps giving them the runaround.

“It's not us that's dragging our feet, we're really struggling to get access... We've had a little bit of a sluggish shall I say start to reviewing physical evidence.”

Clarke said that defense attorneys have repeatedly and unsuccessfully tried to schedule an appointment with the FBI to view these pieces of evidence and have no idea what they are. “As far as we know, the evidence is 2,000 BBs.”

She also pointed out the hardship of traveling back and forth each time. She flew in from San Diego for this hearing. She is also having trouble meeting family in Russia because of the Olympics.

“There’s just a tremendous amount of logistical hurdles,” she said.

The judge asked Chakravarty if he was going to start supplying the defense with some actual information. The prosecuting attorney stammered and stalled for at least a full minute before agreeing.

Judy Clarke quipped to judge: "You have a black robe and it took you that long to get an answer from the government on discovery. Imagine what we are going through."

"This is undoubtedly going to be a lengthy trial," O’Toole said. He warned the prosecution that their lack of cooperation could endanger the trial schedule and instructed them to “avoid unnecessary accumulation of even relevant evidence.” He ordered the government to supply a list of evidence by the end of the week.

Unfortunately for reporters and the public, the evidence files will be sealed. Likewise, the court documents filed on February 11 were sealed.

“Outside the courthouse, some supporters of Tsarnaev said they still believe the teen is innocent,” reported Michele McPhee from ABC. One woman, Lisa Figueroa, 36, drove to the federal courthouse in South Boston from New York City to show her support.

“They won't let him write letters which is wrong,'' Figueroa said. "I'm not one of these girls who thinks he is a rock star. He's accused of terrorism. It's serious. I just think he could be my little brother."

Kevin, 31, of Boston stated that he believes Dzhokhar was set up by the government.

A woman bystander at the marathon, standing in front of the forum, said she witnessed them remove a mailbox to hide evidence. Even a tree was uprooted from the crime scene. It is believed that the angular momentum of the shrapnel would help narrow down where in the crowd the explosion came from. The witness mentioned that the smoke smelled like sulfur or rotten eggs. It did not smell like fireworks.

“It's not American for a suspect to go from isolation to execution without ever getting to explain his side of the story,” another bystander told reporters, questioning the plausibility of many of the government accusations.

“I left the courthouse today feeling a lot more positive than I have done in a long time.” said Jane. “There is no way the prosecution is going to be allowed to continue their prevarication.”

Several Tsarnaev supporters mentioned that their mail to him is being returned, opened.




Comments Leave a comment on this story.

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Anonymous July 12, 2014 11:04 pm (Pacific time)

Cannot believe you would allow this women, Karin Friedman to write for this publication as she is most bias supporter of Tsarnaev, ever. And judging from this article, you did not read all the bias information and her stern belief he is innocent on all her blogs. This is far from being a creditable story - and her interjecting her opinion on court proceedings.

Cynthia February 25, 2014 8:42 am (Pacific time)

REMEMBER: INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY. DAMATURU, NIGERIA-AP – Suspected Islamic militants killed dozens of students in a pre-dawn attack Tuesday on a northeast Nigerian college, survivors said, setting ablaze a locked hostel and shooting and slitting the throats of those who escaped through windows. Some were burned alive. Adamu Garba said he and other teachers who ran away through the bush estimate 40 students died in the assault that began around 2 a.m. Tuesday at the Federal Government College at Buni Yadi. It is a co-ed school about 45 miles south of Damaturu, the capital of Yobe state, and difficult to communicate with because extremists last year destroyed the cell phone tower there. Soldiers still are gathering corpses so he could not give an exact number of dead, said military spokesman Capt. Eli Lazarus. Garba, who teaches at a secondary school attached to the college, said the attackers first set ablaze the college administrative block, then moved to the hostels, where they locked students in and started firebombing the buildings."

Anonymous February 24, 2014 4:52 pm (Pacific time)

I certainly agree with our legal system that purports, which I assume the editor referenced below, "Innocent until proven guilty." I seem to recall coming to this site a ways back before and during, and after the jury found him "Not Guilty" that George Zimmerman never received that consideration. So now in this case you have an abundant amount of public evidence that insures a guilty verdict. Then with Zimmerman you have clear and convincing evidence as the jury saw it that he was innocent...not withstanding the obvious beat down Zimmerman got. So Mr. Editor, are some people more innocent under the law to you? Kind of like the Animal Farm where people are all equal, it's just that some are more equal than others. Alas, we the public have seen much of the evidence and the only thing to guess on will be the sentence. If he goes to general population it's clear what will occur.

Anonymous February 24, 2014 8:55 am (Pacific time)

It's amazing how cults get created around violent criminals. This individual will obviously be found guilty, and in time he will head down the food chain. All of you who support this radical killer will also in time get what you deserve, and may it happen soon. Peace to all Patriots.

Innocent until proven guilty

Anonymous February 22, 2014 5:35 pm (Pacific time)

How is this a stark contrast to Judy Clarke's other cases that reached a plea deal before trial? This case hasn't entered the trial phase and will not until November! Hmmmm....This you?

Tammy February 20, 2014 8:30 am (Pacific time)

Well if the government thought that they would force him into pleading, guess that didn't work. Doesn't sound to me as if their case is as strong as they would have us believe. Beware of the wolf in sheeps clothing.

Anonymous February 19, 2014 11:44 am (Pacific time)

Great article- it was refreshing to see someone shed some light on these particular aspects of the case:)

SeeingThroughIt February 18, 2014 6:07 pm (Pacific time)

Terrible article by a sad, biased web writer masquerading as a journalist who couldn't even maintain proper english towards the end of it. "A woman who was a bystander at marathon in front of the forum said she witnessed them remove mailbox to hide evidence. Even a tree was uprooted from the crime scene. It is believed that the angular momentum of the shrapnel would help narrow down where in the crowd the explosion came from. The witness mentioned that the smoke smelled like sulphur or rotten eggs. It did not smell like fireworks." ^^WTF was THIS nonsense?^^ Take your amateurishly hidden Islamist agenda somewhere else, it isn't wanted in this country.

WTF gives you the right to think you represent people in this country?  None I would say, I know short sited people can not easily grasp the simple fact that this is a free country; we have freedom of both religion and press.  This article raises important questions, the story fed to the sheep (no offense) who graze on corporate controlled mainstream news know little, only what they are supposed to know and nothing else.   The problem with that particular paragraph was my oversight for not catching it, happens sometimes. 

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