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No Venue Change for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's jury trial will remain in Boston. The judge denied a change of venue yesterday. He did grant a two month continuance, until January, 2015. The 10 page order is here.

I recommend reading the defense expert's report. It is very well written and really gives a sense of the factors that need to be considered. It is available here.

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Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's Army Lawyer Resigns, Alleges "Show Trial"

Maj. Jason Wright, one of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's lawyers in his military commission trial, has resigned from the Army, which terminates his representation. In an interview, he says the U.S. is guilty of human rights violations and creating a "show trial."

Wright, who served in Iraq and is a Judge Advocate General (JAG), has spent the last 3 years defending Mohammed. Among his complaints:

Wright says Mohammed in particular has faced a level of torture "beyond comprehension." He says his client was waterboarded by the CIA 183 times and subjected to over a week of sleep deprivation; there were threats that his family would be killed. "And those are just the declassified facts that I'm able to actually speak about," Wright says.

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Obstruction Trial Begins for Tsarnaev's Friend Azamat Tazhayakov

In opening arguments today in the trial of Azamat Tazhayakov, one of the two friends of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev who is charged with obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice Azamat's lawyer, Nicholas Woolridge, told the jury, "I hope you give this kid a shot."

Woolridge also told the jury that it was Dias Kadyrbayev,who will be tried at a later date, who took the backback from Jahar's dorm room back to their apartment, and that it was Dias' girlfriend, who will testify under a grant of immunity from prosecution, who told Dias to get rid of it. Woolridge said Dias only told Azamat about getting rid of the backpack after the fact. [More...]

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Tsarnaev Trial: Change of Venue Request

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has requested a change of venue to Washington, D.C. The judge has not yet ruled on the motion.

Since Mass. does not have a death penalty, many thought the defense would prefer to have the trial there, notwithstanding the pretrial publicity. But the expert surveys conducted by the defense showed Mass. residents presumed Tsarnaev guilty in greater numbers than residents of other places:

Attorneys said they had enlisted an expert to survey public opinion in four cities: Boston, Springfield, Mass., New York City and Washington. Respondents were asked a series of questions, including whether they believed Tsarnaev was "definitely guilty, probably not guilty or definitely not guilty" of the April 2013 bombings that left three dead and more than 260 wounded.

In Boston, 58% said they believed Tsarnaev was definitely guilty, as did 52% in Springfield and 48% in Manhattan. Only 37% in Washington said the same.

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Tsarnaev: Judge Slams Govt's Attempt to Use "Betrayal of US" as Aggravating Factor

The federal judge in the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev case has denied the Government's request to include "betrayal of the U.S." as an aggravating factor in the penalty phase of his trial, calling the attempt "highly inappropriate."

Federal prosecutors have argued, in part, that Tsarnaev, now 20, deserves the death penalty because he betrayed his allegiance to the country that granted him asylum and, later, citizenship.

The defense countered with:

"(I)n not one of the 492 cases before Mr. Tsarnaev's has the government cited the fact of a defendant's American citizenship, the way he became a citizen, any aspect of his immigration history, or his enjoyment of the freedoms of an American citizen as a reason to sentence him to death,"

The Judge ruled it was "highly inappropriate" for prosecutors to draw a distinction between a "naturalized" and "natural-born" U.S. citizen.[More...]

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Cleric Abu Hamza Found Guilty on All Counts

The jury in the New York trial of Muslim cleric Mostafa Kamel Mostafa, better known as Abu Hamza al Masri, has convicted him of all 11 terror-related charges.

Abu Hamza testified for four days in his defense. The jury did not believe him. His defense says the jury placed too much emphasis on the "terror camp that wasn't" in Bly, Oregon.

James Ujaama, originally a follower of Abu Hamza, testified against him, as did another former ally turned informant, who testified via videotape from London.

Ujaama also testified a few years ago at the trial of Oussama Kassir, a Swede who was also involved in the Oregon pseudo-camp. Kassir was convicted and got a life sentence.

Hamza is also likely to get a life sentence, possibly at Supermax in Florence, unless they can't accommodate his medical condition (he has no hands and is blind in one eye.) [More...]

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Jury Selected for Abu Hamza Trial in New York

Jury selection began this morning in the trial of Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, aka Abu Hamza al-Masri.

The 55-year-old Mustafa also will face a life sentence if he is convicted of conspiring to support al-Qaida by trying in 1999 to set up a terrorist training camp in Bly, Ore., by arranging for others to attend an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan and by ensuring there was satellite phone service for hostage-takers in Yemen in 1998 who abducted two American tourists and 14 others. Four hostages were killed.

Jurors were questioned about Abu Hamza's physical appearance. He has no hands and only one eye: [More....]

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Tsarnaev Defense Seeks Discovery on FBI Visits to Tamerlan

Defense lawyers for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev filed a 23 page motion for discovery Friday. You can read it here.

The motion, which seeks a lot of information about Tamerlan and the family's history, is an attempt to get the Government to turn over documents that could be used as mitigation evidence in the death penalty phase to show Dzhokhar fell under the spell of his over-powering brother. The defense says it is asking for:

...any evidence tending to show that Tamerlan (Tsarnaev) supplied the motivation, planning, and ideology behind the Boston Marathon attack, and that his young brother acted under his domination and control … .”

The motion doesn't claim the FBI tried to get Tamerlan to be an informant. It says it has information from its interviews of family members that the FBI met with Tamerlan before his trip to Russia on more than one occasion and that the family said the FBI tried to get Tamerlan to be an informant. It's trying to find out if the the Government is in possession of information that supports the family's statements. [More...]

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Tsarnaev Defense Renews Request for "Taint Team" and Lifting of SAM's

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's defense lawyers have filed a motion (available here) renewing its request to lift the SAMs (special administrative measures) imposed by the Bureau of Prisons and to compel the Government to use a "taint team." The motion says "the defense is encountering obstacles related to FBI monitoring of family visits and BOP screening of materials that defense counsel need to review with the defendant."

When Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is visited by one of his sisters, the SAMs restrictions on him require the visit be monitored by the U.S. Marshals Service, Bureau of Prisons or FBI, so that the Government can determine if the visit is being used to pass messages soliciting or encouraging acts of violence or other crimes, or some other purpose that would violate the SAMs. The Government has recently said that an FBI agent present during a visit with one of his sisters heard Jahar make an inculpatory remark.

The original SAMs are here, and the defense argument against them is here and here. The modifications previously ordered by the Court are here.[More...]

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Trial to Begin for Osama Bin Laden's Son in Law

Trial begins tomorrow for Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, a son-in-law of Osama bin Laden. The "spokesman" for Al-Qaida is charged with conspiracy to kill United States nationals, conspiracy to provide material support and resources to terrorists and providing material support and resources to terrorists.

The Government claims that prior to 9/11, he urged others to swear an oath of allegiance to Osama bin Laden and told Osama he would help him by giving speeches and appearing in al Qaeda propaganda for the purpose of recruiting additional al Qaeda personnel. It claims that Osama bin Laden sought a meeting with him on 9/11, and that after 9/11, he made speeches and videos in support of al Qaida. It also claims he had advance knowledge of Richard Reid's shoe bomb attempt and made speeches supporting it, which the Government claims, amounts to providing material support to terrorists.

Abu Ghaith, prior to his arrest, was an Iman and high school religion teacher. [More...]

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Dzhokhar Tsarnev Trial Set for November

The judge in the Boston Marathon bombing trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has set his trial to begin November 3, 2014. The defense had asked it begin in September, 2015.

The defense says the FBI has yet to turn over 2,000 pieces of physical evidence still being analyzed.

The defense has until June to decide on whether to seek a change of venue.

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U.S. to Seek Death Penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

The United States will seek the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. It filed a notice today (available on PACER) listing the statutory aggravating factors and non-statutory aggravating factors. Among the non-statutory factors:

1. Betrayal of the United States. DZHOKHAR TSARNAEV received asylum from the United States; obtained citizenship and enjoyed the freedoms of a United States citizen; and then betrayed his allegiance to the United States by killing and maiming people in the United States.

2. Encouragement of Others to Commit Acts of Violence and Terrorism. In conjunction with committing acts of violence and terrorism, DZHOKHAR TASARNAEV made statements suggesting that others would be justified in committing additional acts of violence and terrorism against the United States.

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"Jihadi Jane" Sentenced to Ten Years

"Jihadi Jane" aka Colleen La Rose, has been sentenced in Philadelphia to ten years in prison for her role in the planned attack on Danish newspaper cartoonist Lars Vilks.

Prosecutors depicted Ms. LaRose as a “lonely and isolated” woman who sought excitement by joining the jihadist cause. She was flattered to get an assignment to kill a foe of Islam.

The original indictment is here. Rose has already served four years, so she has about four more years to do. She cooperated with authorities to avoid a life sentence.

“The fact that out of boredom, or out of being housebound, she took to the computer and communicated with the people she communicated with, and hatched this mission, is just unbelievable,” Judge Tucker said.

Still to be sentenced in the case: Jamie Paulin Ramirez, originally from Colorado, who became a mail-order bride for alleged co-conspirator Ali Damache, an Algerian national in Ireland who pleaded guilty there during trial to sending a menacing message by telephone to an American Muslim activist. [More...]

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Lynne Stewart Granted Compassionate Release

U.S. District Judge John Koeltl has granted a motion from the Government to release attorney Lynne Stewart from prison. Months ago, Judge Koetl said he could not act unless the Government, as opposed to Stewart, made the request. This morning, the Government made the request and this afternoon, Judge Koetl granted it.

“The defendant’s terminal medical condition and very limited life expectancy constitute extraordinary and compelling reasons that warrant the requested reduction” in her prison sentence, Koeltl’s order said.

Stewart has been imprisoned since 2009 as a result of her conviction for assisting her jailed client, Omar Abdel-Rahman, communicate with his followers. Some more history on her need for early release is here.

She's been suffering from cancer since 2006.

Stewart's conviction stretched the definition of material support to a terrorist organization to new limits. While nothing can return the past four years to her, at least she will spend her final days with her family. Our best wishes go out to Lynne.

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ACLU Files Brief Opposing Tsarnaev Prison Restrictions

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is challenging the restrictive prison SAMS (special administrative measures) BOP imposed on his prison communications, including those with his attorneys. The ACLU filed this Amicus Brief today.

Among the restrictions: Defense attorneys have to pre-clear any documents they want to show Jahar with the Government. The Boston Herald reports:

In an affidavit attached to the filing, one of Tsarnaev’s lawyers stated that during a prison visit he was forbidden to show Tsarnaev photographs related to preparing his defense because they contained images of family members, which he is barred from seeing.

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