Feds want boat panels brought to court to show Tsarnaev note

Opening statements schedule to start today

By Denise Lavoie
AP Legal Affairs Writer

BOSTON (AP) - Prosecutors want panels of the boat in which Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was found hiding to be brought to court to show jurors what they say is his written confession, but his lawyers want them to see the entire bullet-ridden boat.

Prosecutors have said Tsarnaev scrawled the motive for the deadly attack inside the boat. They say he referred to U.S. wars in Muslim countries and wrote, "Stop killing our innocent people and we will stop."

Tsarnaev's older brother had been killed hours earlier during a shootout with police, but Tsarnaev escaped and then was captured, wounded and bloodied, inside the boat, parked in a suburban Watertown backyard.

During a final pretrial hearing Monday, Tsarnaev attorney William Fick argued the jury would be seeing the writing out of context if the boat's panels were brought into the courtroom. To see the whole boat would allow the jury to imagine Tsarnaev lying inside "much like someone lying in a crypt making those writings," Fick said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney William Weinreb argued it would be impractical to bring the boat to the courthouse and there are photographs of it that can be shown to the jury. He suggested the defense wants the jury to see the boat, which contains bullet holes and blood stains, to gain sympathy for Tsarnaev.

Tsarnaev's lawyers also asked Judge George O'Toole Jr. to exclude autopsy photos of the three people killed in the 2013 bombings.

"These are highly sensitive, highly disturbing images," attorney Miriam Conrad said.

She said the defense won't dispute how the victims died.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Nadine Pellegrini said prosecutors have to prove the victims died from the use of a weapon of mass destruction, among the charges against Tsarnaev, and the full-body autopsy photos are necessary because they show all the wounds.

The judge did not immediately rule on the motions.

The defense later filed a fourth motion to move the trial, asking the court to stop jury selection, which is expected to be completed Tuesday. The lawyers acknowledged their three earlier requests have been denied but said they want to complete the record of their opposition now that 75 people have been potentially qualified.

The defense said 48 of those qualified said on their questionnaires they believe Tsarnaev is guilty and/or have connections to the marathon bombing. Prosecutors countered the defense characterization of the questionnaire data was "erroneous" and said many of the connections jurors listed were trivial.

In a separate filing, prosecutors opposed a defense motion asking the judge to dismiss the indictment against Tsarnaev based on the way the jury pool was summoned and called for individual questioning. Prosecutors said both procedures were conducted properly.

During Monday's hearing, Tsarnaev's lawyers made it clear they will portray him as an adoring younger brother who was coerced by his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, into participating in the bombings.

Although defense lawyers had indicated they planned to argue Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, then 19, was influenced by Tamerlan Tsarnaev, then 26, they used their strongest language to date to describe how they will depict the brothers' relationship and their roles in the attack.

Tsarnaev attorney David Bruck said prosecutors are trying to show a " distorted" picture of his client by asking the judge to limit the kind of evidence they can present during the initial phase of the trial, when the jury will be asked to decide whether Tsarnaev is guilty of 30 charges.

Bruck, arguing the defense should be entitled to present evidence of Tamerlan Tsarnaev's role, called him the "lead conspirator ... but for whom the Boston Marathon bombing would never have occurred."

He said the defense should be allowed to present evidence the motive "may well have been the defendant's domination by, love for, adoration of, submissiveness to ... his older brother."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Aloke Chakravarty argued the defense plans to try to include mitigating evidence during the guilt phase of the trial when that should be reserved for the penalty phase, when the jury will be asked to decide Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's punishment: life in prison or the death penalty.

Opening statements are scheduled for Wednesday. The trial is expected to last three to four months.

Published: Wed, Mar 04, 2015


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