TIME Crime

No Plea Deal Likely in Boston Bomber Case

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, George O'Toole Jr.
Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is depicted beside U.S. District Judge George O'Toole Jr. as O'Toole addresses a pool of potential jurors in a jury assembly room at the federal courthouse, in Boston Jane Flavell Collins—AP

There may be little incentive for prosecutors who believe they have incontrovertible evidence to negotiate away their ability to seek the maximum penalty possible

(WASHINGTON) — The focus of the Boston Marathon bombing trial figures to be as much on what punishment Dzhokhar Tsarnaev could face as on his responsibility for the attack.

With testimony expected to start later this month, the Justice Department has given no indication it is open to any proposal from the defense to spare Tsarnaev’s life, pushing instead toward a trial that could result in a death sentence for the 21-year-old defendant.

In a deadly terror case that killed three people, including a child, and jolted the city, there may be little incentive for prosecutors who believe they have incontrovertible evidence to negotiate away their ability to seek the maximum penalty possible.

“There would be now, in my judgment, no reason for the government to reverse course and not let 12 citizens decide if the death penalty is appropriate,” said Larry Mackey, a former Justice Department prosecutor involved in the case of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, who was executed in 2001.

The prospect of a death sentence, a rare punishment in the federal system, raises the stakes of a trial that will revisit in gory detail the 2013 attack that also injured more than 260. Should the jury find Tsarnaev guilty, it would then decide in a separate penalty phase whether he should be sentenced to death. Jury selection is underway and the judge has said he hopes to begin testimony on Jan. 26.

Only three federal inmates, including McVeigh, have been put to death since 2001. Recent botched executions at the state level have placed the practice under scrutiny, with President Barack Obama directing the Justice Department last year to investigate how the death penalty is applied across the nation.

Despite his own personal reservations about the death penalty, Attorney General Eric Holder says the government is committed to seeking that punishment for Tsarnaev. Prosecutors have cited factors including a “lack of remorse,” the evident premeditation involved in the attack and allegations that Tsarnaev also killed an MIT police officer after the bombing that left an 8-year-old boy dead.

“The nature of the conduct at issue and the resultant harm compel this decision,” Holder said in a statement last January.

There has been no indication the government has wavered in that decision, even though one of Tsarnaev’s lawyers, Judy Clarke, has gotten prosecutors to spare the lives of multiple high-profile killers, including Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, Olympic Park bomber Eric Rudolph and Jared Loughner, who killed six people and wounded former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

But there’s also no predicting how a trial will play out, including whether a conviction would result in a death sentence — particularly in liberal Massachusetts, which abolished its state death penalty in 1984. In a bid to save his life, defense lawyers may hope to cast Tsarnaev as an impressionable young man pressured into participating in the attack by his older brother, Tamerlan, who died after a firefight with police days after the bombing.

Gerald Zerkin, a Virginia defense lawyer who represented Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, who is now serving a life sentence, said there are obvious benefits for the government to accept a plea in death penalty cases, including to reduce the uncertainty of a trial and to spare victims and their loved ones from reliving the horrific facts of a case.

“You can get a resolution that is life without parole, and you could do it for a lot less money, a lot less time, a lot fewer resources” and without “re-traumatizing victims,” Zerkin said.

Rob Owen, a professor who runs a death penalty case clinic at Northwestern University, said a death sentence will result in years of legal appeals whereas a guilty plea would presumably help the case fade faster from public attention.

But with the trial’s opening arguments projected for later this month, any window for a deal to spare Tsarnaev’s life has likely closed and there’s little reason for the government to entertain the possibility, Mackey said.

“The calculus was done, I’m sure in this case, the day after the bombing, when people were faced full-front with the ugly scenario left on the streets of Boston,” he said.

TIME Courts

Everything You Should Know About the Boston Marathon Bombing Trial

Jury selection begins Monday

The trial of one of the accused Boston Marathon bombers started Monday, nearly two years after the attack that killed three people and injured more than 260 others, with the beginning of the selection of the jury that will ultimately decide the fate of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Here’s what to know as the trial gets underway.

What happened in April 2013?

Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, are suspected of building and detonating pressure-cooker bombs near the finish line of the marathon on April 15, 2013. The brothers escaped initial capture but were later identified as suspects and confronted in a days-long manhunt that shut down much of the Boston area and transfixed the country. Tamerlan died after a shootout with authorities that followed the death of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer; he was also said to have been run over by a vehicle driven by his brother, Dzhokhar, who was later found in a boat parked on a driveway in nearby Watertown.

What about the brothers’ background?

Tamerlan and Dzhokhar came to the U.S. from Kyrgyzstan when they were aged 15 and 8, respectively. The older brother became a solid boxer while in Cambridge, Mass., and his younger sibling would become a popular wrestler at Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School before enrolling at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. Dzhokhar was said to have adjusted to life in the U.S. easier than Tamerlan, who authorities painted as having become disillusioned and who they said would later align with radical Islam.

MORE The Horror. The Heroism.

What charges does Tsarnaev face?

He faces 30 federal counts including the bombing of a public place, malicious destruction of public property, carjacking, disruption of commerce and possession and use of a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death. Here’s the full list.

How long is the trial expected to last?

That’s unclear, but it could be several months. Selecting a fit jury from a pool of more than 1,200 could take a few weeks, according to the Boston Globe, and the trial will be split into two phases. The first will involve determining his innocence or guilt; if the jury finds Tsarnaev guilty, the second phase will revolve around his sentencing.

Where will the trial take place?

The trial is set to be held at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston. Tsarnaev’s defense team repeatedly tried to have it moved, arguing it would be too difficult to find an impartial jury where the attack took place. But the district court wouldn’t budge, writing in a newly released decision that it would be capable of finding 12 jurors and six alternates in the “large and diverse” population that resides in the district’s Eastern Division.

Who are the lawyers on both sides?

Legendary defense attorney Judy Clarke quickly joined Tsarnaev’s defense team, bringing her experience of representing the likes of unabomber Ted Kaczynski and Jared Lee Loughner, whose 2011 shooting rampage in Arizona left six people dead and 13 injured, including former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Many of her clients are convicted and imprisoned while having avoided capital punishment, which Clarke opposes. Two other members of Tsarnaev’s defense team are Miriam Conrad, the chief public defender for Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island, and David Bruck, a Washington and Lee University School of Law professor and the director of its death penalty defense clinic.

The prosecution is largely composed of Assistant U.S. Attorneys with strong background in terrorism cases. William Weinreb and Aloke Chakravarty both played key roles in the handling of the arrest of failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad in 2010. Nadine Pellegrini formerly led Boston’s major crimes unit.

Both legal teams will be presided over by U.S. District Judge George O’Toole Jr.

Who will likely be called as witnesses?

The court was recently handed a list of 590 law enforcement personnel, 142 civilians and 1,238 exhibits that they might make use of during the trial, the Times reports. That group includes some of the officers who were involved in the response to the attack, in addition Tsarnaev’s arrest and questioning.

Does Tsarnaev face the death penalty?

Yes. Even though the crime was committed in Massachusetts, where capital punishment has been illegal since the early 1980s, prosecutors charged Tsarnaev in the federal court system, which allows it. (A poll by the Globe in July found that 62% of respondents supported the decision by Attorney General Eric Holder to seek the death penalty, but 29% opposed his choice.)

What is the defense expected to argue?

Legal observers agree that the defense attorneys will try to protect their client from the death penalty rather than prove his innocence. Among the issues at play will be how Tsarnaev may have been influenced by his older brother, which would involve cooperation from close friends and family. The defense team had previously said it had difficulties researching his relatives overseas.

How do people in Massachusetts feel about the trial?

Interviews with local residents and survivors, conducted by the Boston Globe and New York Times, suggest they are ready to bring the tragic saga to a close. How exactly they hope to do that varies, as some say they don’t want to rehash the attack while others are eager to learn more about what happened.

Why has the case taken so long to come to trial?

The trial was originally scheduled to begin last fall but the defense team asked for it to be pushed back to September 2015 or later, claiming it didn’t provide enough time to prepare due to an overwhelming amount of material from prosecutors. The new date then became Jan. 5.

Read next: Summary of Counts Facing Boston Marathon Bombing Suspect

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME National Security

Friend of Boston Marathon Bombing Suspect Guilty of Obstructing Justice

Azamat Tazhayakov
In this courtroom sketch, defendant Azamat Tazhayakov, a college friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, sits during a hearing in federal court in Boston on May 13, 2014. Jane Flavell Collins—AP

Azamat Tazhayakov is the first of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's friends to be put on trial for obstructing the investigation

A federal court found a friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev guilty of obstruction of justice and of conspiring to obstruct justice for interfering with the investigation.

Azamat Tazhayakov, a former University of Massachusetts Dartmouth student, faces a possible 20-year sentence for the obstruction charge and five years for the conspiracy charge, the Boston Globe reports.

The 12-member U.S. District Court jury deliberated for 15 hours over the course of three days. The sentencing has been set for Oct. 16, according to U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz.

Prosecutors argued that Tazhayakov knew of another friend, Dias Kadyrbayev, who allegedly removed evidence from Tsarnaev’s room a few days after the bombing and worked with him to help protect Tsarnaev.

Tazhayakov is the first of three friends of Tsarnaev to be put on trial on charges related to hindering the investigation. Tsarnaev’s trial is scheduled to begin in November.

[Boston Globe]

TIME movies

Hollywood Eyes Film Based on Boston Marathon Bombing Survivor’s Story

Jeff Bauman Throws First Pitch At Fenway Park
Boston Marathon bombing victim Jeff Bauman threw out a ceremonial first pitch on May 28, 2013, at Boston's Fenway Park, where the Philadelphia Phillies played the Red Sox in a regular-season baseball game. Jim Davis—The Boston Globe/Getty Images

Three of the names behind the Oscar-nominated film The Fighter have reportedly signed on to produce a movie about Jeff Bauman

A gutsy survivor of the Boston Marathon bombings is to receive the silver-screen treatment with a film in the works about his remarkable story.

Jeff Bauman lost both his legs to the twin explosions while he was waiting for his girlfriend to complete the race. He penned a book, Stronger, about what occurred that fateful day and his long road to recovery.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Lionsgate won the deal to develop the picture and brought in Mandeville Films to produce. The project will be an adaptation of Bauman’s book, which he wrote alongside best-selling co-author Bret Whitter.

Three big names who worked on the Oscar-nominated feature The Fighter — Todd Lieberman, David Hoberman and Scott Silver — are producing the film, and actor John Pollono will take on writing the adaptation in his first feature-length project.

Three people were killed and more than 260 were injured when two pressure-cooker bombs exploded just seconds apart from each other as scores of runners were crossing the finishing line in Boston on April 15, 2013.

A manhunt ensued for suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and he was apprehended four days later. His brother and fellow suspect Tamerlan was killed in a shootout with police.

[The Hollywood Reporter]

TIME Crime

Prosecutors: Suspected Boston Bombers Used Christmas Lights, Model Car Parts in Explosives

Prosecutors say the sophistry of the explosives gave investigators reason to believe that the suspects may have had accomplices, prompting them to question Dzhokhar Tsarnaev while he was being treated in the hospital.

The suspected Boston Marathon bombers used parts from Christmas lights and model cars to construct the sophisticated explosives used in the attack, federal prosecutors said in a Wednesday court filing.

Federal prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the two suspects in the April 16, 2013 bombings that killed three people and injured 264 others. His brother and alleged accomplice, Tamerlan, died during a police shootout following the search for suspects.

Prosecutors said in the filing the sophisticated nature of the explosives gave reason to believe that the brothers received assistance, the Boston Globe reports.

“In short, the facts and circumstances known to law enforcement at the time they interviewed Tsarnaev provided ample reason to believe that the Tsarnaevs did not act alone,” the prosecutors said in the filing, according to the Globe.

Prosecutors also said the brothers appeared to have crushed and emptied fireworks containing black powder for the bombs, but investigators did not find significant traces of the powder at the brothers’ residences or cars.

The filing also argues the court should not suppress statements Dzhokhar Tsarnaev made to FBI agents while being treated in a hospital after his arrest because investigators had to determine if the suspect had accomplices who could have posed a threat. Tsarnaev’s defense has argued that the interrogations are inadmissible because he was interrogated without access to a lawyer.

[Boston Globe]

TIME Boston Marathon bombing

Tsarnaev’s Attorneys Want Hospital Statements Thrown Out

The Boston bombing suspect's attorneys claim the 27 hour interrogation was intended to incriminate Dzokhar

In the aftermath of one of the worst terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s attorneys say the FBI went too far in questioning him.

Paperwork from Tsarnaev’s attorneys say that the FBI interrogated him for 27 hours, including turning away lawyers, while Tsarnaev was handcuffed to a hospital bed. In seeking to have the statements given at the time thrown out, the lawyers argue that the questioning was “an effort to extract as much incriminating information as possible, without regard to the protections of the Fifth Amendment.”

The argument could prove to be moot, however, with prosecutors not planning to use the statements in their case.

TIME Television

Boston Marathon Bombing Inspires Fox Series

Penguin

The event series, based on the bestselling book Long Mile Home by two Boston Globe reporters, will follow the lives of five people whose lives are forever changed by the Boston Marathon attacks

Fox is developing an event series based on the bestselling book Long Mile Home, in which Boston Globe reporters Scott Helman and Jenna Russell chronicle the stories of five people who were in some way affected by the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013, Deadline reports.

Helman and Russell were among the members of the Globe‘s team that won a Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of the bombing and its aftermath. They will act as consultants for the four-hour series.

Fox has signed Rod Lurie, a producer and former investigative crime journalist, to write and direct the series. According to Deadline, he visited Boston before the 2014 marathon and went to the apartment where the bombers lived. There he found a note thumbtacked to the door that read: “Nobody in the building has anything to say to journalists/reporters. Please go away.”

[Deadline]

TIME Crime

Officials Charge Suspect for Dropping Suspicious Bags Near Boston Marathon Finish Line

A policeman stands guard during a ceremony commemorating the first anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings in Boston, on April 15, 2014.
A policeman stands guard during a ceremony commemorating the first anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings in Boston, on April 15, 2014. Xinhua/SIPA USA

Boston authorities charged a man with disturbing the peace, possessing a hoax device and disorderly conduct after he left two unattended backpacks near the Marathon finish line on Tuesday, a year after twin blasts killed 3 people and injured 260 others

Updated 2:40 a.m. E.T. on Wednesday

Authorities have charged a male suspect with disturbing the peace, possessing a hoax device and disorderly conduct after he left two unattended backpacks near the Boston Marathon finish line Tuesday, the Boston Police Department announced:

Police evacuated the area Tuesday evening, and a bomb squad was called to investigate the scene. According to local news reports, one of the backpacks was allegedly left by a barefoot man shouting “Boston strong” before police removed him from the area.

Police spokesman David Estrada said there did not appear to be any evidence that the bags were explosive or dangerous but that police take reports of unattended bags very seriously, the Boston Globe reports. A nearby train station was also shut down.

The discovery of the bags occurred exactly one year after a bombing of the 2013 Boston Marathon killed three people and injured 264 others.

TIME

What Russia Knew About the Boston Marathon Bomber

An unreleased report shows that the Russian government concealed key information on Tamerlan Tsarnaev two years before the bombing

Could Russia’s information on Tamerlan Tsarnaev have prevented the Boston Marathon bombings?

Russian authorities intercepted a phone conversation in which the older Tsarnaev brother discussed Islamic jihad with his mother, but they withheld the information from the FBI, according to an unreleased government review that comes as the one-year anniversary of the Boston bombing approaches.

Congress will be briefed on additional details from the report Thursday, and some findings are expected to be released to the public next week.

Watch the video above for details.

TIME National Security

Report: Russia Withheld Intelligence on Boston Bombing Suspect

Tamerlan Tsamaev at a boxing event in Salt Lake City, Utah in 2009.
Tamerlan Tsamaev at a boxing event in Salt Lake City, Utah in 2009. Glenn DePriest—Getty Images

An unreleased government report shows Russian authorities didn't tell U.S. officials about an intercepted call between Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his mother about Islamic jihad until after the attack on the Boston Marathon, which might have put him under greater scrutiny

Russia did not share some intelligence that could have subjected one of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects to greater scrutiny before the attacks, according to an unreleased government review.

The New York Times, citing unnamed sources, reports that the review claims Russia told the FBI of Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s radicalization during a trip to the country but declined to share additional data, including information from an intercepted phone conversation he had with his mother about Islamic Jihad, prior to the attack.

Law enforcement in the U.S. considered Tsarnaev more of a threat to Russia at the time, though it’s unclear the extent to which the additional information could have helped them prevent the attack.

The government report, which also finds some faults in the FBI investigation before the attack, was compiled by the inspector general of the Office of the Intelligence Community, which has oversight over the disparate federal agencies. Congress will be briefed on the report Thursday, and some findings are expected to be released to the public on Tuesday, the attack’s one year anniversary.

Authorities believe the suspected brothers attacked alone in the bombings that killed three people and wounded 264. Tsarnaev was killed evading police days after the attack. His younger brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty to 30 federal charges, some of which carry the death penalty, and his trial is slated to begin in November.

[NYT]

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