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Dun Meng, the Chinese national whose Mercedes was carjacked by Tamerlan Tsarnaev, testified today about his ordeal. He said Tamerlan was alone when he carjacked him, threatened him with a gun and then had him drive around for 20 to 30 minutes before they picked up Jahar.
During cross-examination by the defense, Meng acknowledged that Tamerlan was the one who jumped in his car and threatened him with a gun. He said Dzhokhar barely spoke to him, except to ask if the sound system in his car would work with his iPhone.
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In the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev trial today, defense attorney Miriam Conrad reportedly shredded the testimony of FBI agent David Kimball about tweeting during cross-examination. Yesterday, Kimball testifed to a second twitter account Dzhokhar had called Ghuraba and read tweets from it as well as from his first account. The goal was to make Dzkhokhar seem like a "radicalized killer."
That fell apart today. Among other things, Kimball misidentified a mosque in Grozny as Mecca. He didn't know that many of the tweets were rap song lyrics or were quotes from Comedy Central and other shows. He didn't know the meaning of many slang words. (He guessed "mad cooked" meant crazy. It means high.) He admitted he hadn't even looked up the tweets he was testifying about. He just went with what prosecutors gave him. [More...]
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"We meet in the most tragic of circumstances."
The circumstances that bring us here today still are difficult to grasp, are incomprehensible, are inexcusable.
For the next several weeks we are all going to come face to face with unbearable grief. We're going to see it, feel it, and agonize with every witness
"We will not sidestep Tsarnaev's responsibility for his actions" [More...]
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The First Circuit Court of Appeals has denied Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's request to order his trial moved from Boston due to the inability to seat a fair and impartial jury. The vote was 2 to 1:
In a dissenting opinion, Circuit Judge Juan R. Torruella wrote that media coverage from the date of the bombing through the current pre-trial process has been “unparalleled in American legal history,” and that in the face of such publicity “it is absurd to suggest that Tsarnaev will receive a fair and impartial trial in the Eastern Division of the District of Massachusetts.”
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Dzhokhar Tsarnav's defense team filed a third motion to change venue yesterday. They provided a lot of statistics and quotes from the voir dire process so far to show Tsarnaev cannot get a fair trial in Boston.
In the filing Thursday, the lawyers said questionnaires filled out by 1,373 prospective jurors from Eastern Massachusetts show that 85 percent of them either believe Tsarnaev is guilty, have some self-identified connection to the case, or both.
“There is now no doubt that these emotions are deep, that they linger, and they are peculiar to and permeate the entire Eastern Division,” of Massachusetts, the lawyers argued, adding that 68 percent of the jury pool believes Tsarnaev is guilty “before hearing a single witness or examining a shred of evidence at trial.”
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Update: Tsarnaev's defense team has now requested a continuance due to the Paris shootings.
Boston Magazine has an interesting interview with Stephen Jones, lead trial counsel for Timothy McVeigh, "Tale of Two Trials" on similarities and differences in McVeigh's case and that of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
On jury selection, he raises the issue of the "stealth juror."
The federal courts, in my opinion, engage in a fiction. The fiction is — and some sincerely believe it, but I think nevertheless it’s a fiction — that once the juror takes an oath as a juror that their personality and character sort of changes and now they recognize this tremendous responsibility on them. I’ve not found that to be true.
What I’ve found is that the more notorious the case is, or the greater the publicity, jurors campaign to be on the jury so they can be a part of history, and that was certainly the case in Mr. McVeigh’s jury.
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Prospective jurors arrived at the federal courthouse in Boston this morning to fill out lengthy juror questionnaires for the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
In December, the Government and defense agreed on the explanatory remarks the judge should make when explaining the process to them. While the judge may have made some modifications, you can can read them here to get a general idea of what they were told.
Here is a good primer from the ABA on jury questionnaires.[More...]
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Update: It should be pointed out that the only thing happening Monday is that those summoned for jury duty will fill out a questionnaire. The court and lawyers will review them for a week or so. The jurors will be given a phone number to call which will tell them whether they have been excused or should appear on a certain date for further participation, or should call back at some other time. What most people think of as the trial (opening statements, testimony, etc) is not expected to begin before the end of January according to pleadings filed in the case.
Jury selection will begin Monday as scheduled in the trial of Dzhokhar (Jahar) Tsarnaev. The First Circuit Court of Appeals today denied his Petition for a Writ of Mandamus which sought a change of venue, or an order compelling the trial judge to stay jury selection and hold an evidentiary hearing on his request for a change of venue. (Background here.) The four page decision is here. One judge dissented, and would have granted the application. [More....]
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Jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday in the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, accused of the Boston Marathon bombings. Yesterday, hours after the trial court refused its most recent request for a continuance, the defense filed a petition for writ of mandamus with the First Circuit Court of Appeals requesting a change of venue, or in the alternative, an order compelling the trial judge to hold an evidentiary hearing on its change of venue motion. You can read it here. It also filed a motion in the trial court requesting that jury selection be delayed until the appeals court has ruled.
The petition makes several references to the ruling of Judge Matsch in the OKC bombing case of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols (available here.) Judge Matsch rejected the Government's arguments that a fair trial could be held outside of OKC, but still in Oklahoma. He ruled a fair trial was not possible anywhere in the state of Oklahoma, and moved the trial to Denver. [More...]
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Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's lawyers are asking for a trial delay, primarily due to last minute document dumps by the Government, as well as new expert witness disclosures. The Government opposes the delay. I've uploaded the defense motion here and the Government's motion here. (Addresses and phone numbers of defense counsel redacted.) From the Defense motion:
The size of the witness list:
On December 15, the government provided a witness list (comprised of 590 “law enforcement personnel” and 142 “civilian witnesses”) and an exhibit list (naming 1,238 exhibits and an additional 413 “files contained on digital exhibits”).
On the recent document dumps: [More...]
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Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, accused of committing the Boston Marathan bombing, was in court this morning. Reporters in the courtroom are live-tweeting. Almost all say he appeared much more alert, interested and engaged in the proceedings than at his prior appearance. He smiled when talking to his attorney Judy Clarke.
He wore slacks and a sweater, not an orange jumpsuit. He has a short beard and his hair is longer than at his last appearance.
As I wrote Monday, the Government asked for him to appear so that he could be quizzed about whether he is satisfied with his counsel, in case he is convicted and claims differently in an appeal. Today Dzhokhar (aka Jahar) assured the court he was satisfied with his attorneys, answering "Very much so." (One reporter tweeted he answered "Pretty much" and another said he responded "Yes Sir." Are they attending the same proceeding?)
One reporter said the Judge ruled the witness lists will be sealed until the jury is seated. Another said the judge said he will release the list on Dec. 28. [More...]
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The U.S. just can't let the terrorist training camp in Bly, Oregon die, even though it never existed.
Since 2002, the U.S. has been charging and imprisoning people for acts related to the Bly camp that were committed in 1999. (New York Times article from 2002 here.) Its last conquest was Abu Hamza al Masri, the one eyed Sheikh with no hands but a hook (photo here), also extradited from the U.K.
Today, yet another suspect, mentally ill Haroon Aswat, arrived in the U.S. . He pleaded not guilty to terror charges concerning the camp. He has been in a mental hospital in the U.K. since 2008. The U.S. assured the U.K. it would provide treatment for him, and although in 2013, the European Court of Human Rights blocked his extradition, the U.K. courts approved it after receiving the U.S. assurances. [More...]
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The jury has been deliberating for an hour in in the trial of Robel Philippos,the friend of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev who is charged with lying to the FBI. Closing arguments were held this morning.
Prosecutors say Phillipos, 21, lied to investigators about his whereabouts and what he saw on April 18, 2013, when he and two friends allegedly visited Tsarnaev’s dorm room and removed a backpack of evidence after the marathon bombings. After several interviews, Phillipos signed a written confession admitting he had lied and that he regretted doing so.
Phillipos’s defense team contends that he was a scared 19-year-old at the time who was “high out of his mind” during interviews with investigators and could not remember clearly. The confession, they argued, was coerced by investigators.
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Hoping to get a lower sentence when he is sentenced for obstruction of justice, Azamat Tazhayakov testified against his friend Robel Philippos yesterday. Phillipos is charged with making false statements to the FBI. Initially, the FBI says, he lied about being in the dorm room. Then it claims he lied about the actions of his two friends, Azamat and Dias Kadyrbayev, who were present in the dorm room, with respect to what he saw and heard later at their apartment. Tsarnaev had already been named a suspect at the time, and his photo had been released to the media. Twitter has more coverage from reporters who were live-tweeting from the courtroom. They don't seem to have used a uniform hashtag -- a search within Twitter for Robel brings most of them up.
Phillipos defense is he was so stoned on pot he didn't remember events well enough to accurately recount them. Azamat, convicted in July, testified Phillipos didn't seem all that stoned. He did confirm that Robel had smoked pot several times that night and the next morning.
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Opening arguments began today in the trial of Robel Phillipos, the third friend of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to be charged with a crime related to the removal of items from Tsarnaev's dorm room after Tsarnaev was identified as a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings.
He is charged with making false statements to the FBI. His defense: He was "stoned out of his mind."
Friend Azamat Tazhayakov was found guilty of obstruction of justice at a trial in July; Dias Kadyrbayev pleaded guilty to obstruction in August. Neither have been sentenced yet. A fourth friend, Steven Silva, is awaiting trial on gun charges.
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