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Death Penalty Trial Begins for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

The Government gave its opening statement today in the death penalty trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Live updates are here. At the end of her opening, the prosecutor giving the opening displayed a screengrab of a security camera video of Tsarnaev in his cell raising his middle finger to the camera. It hasn't been admitted into evidence, so there isn't a copy, but the media reports it was taken a year ago and shows his face was scarred and he was very angry.

The defense deferred their opening until the start of their case. Several witnesses testified as to their injuries in graphic detail. Victim impact testimony in these cases is always horrific. Over defense objection, the judge admitted a video of one victim on the ground, with constant blood curdling screams. [More...]

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OKC Bombing: 20 Years Later

Today is the 20th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, for which Timothy McVeigh was executed in June, 2001.

On April 19, 1995, President Clinton said during his first national address [More...]

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Victim's Family Asks Govt to Let Tsarnaev Have Life Sentence

The family of Martin Richards, the youngest victim killed in the Boston Marathon bombings, has written a public request asking the Government to withdraw its request for the death penalty.

"We understand all too well the heinousness and brutality of the crimes committed. We were there. We lived it.... "The defendant murdered our 8-year-old son, maimed our 7-year-old daughter, and stole part of our soul. We know that the government has its reasons for seeking the death penalty, but the continued pursuit of that punishment could bring years of appeals and prolong reliving the most painful day of our lives."

The Richards want Tsarnaev to accept a sentence of life without parole and waive his right to future appeals.

AUSA Carmen Ortiz responded with a non-answer.

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Tsarnaev: Making the Case for Life

The penalty phase of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's trial doesn't begin until April 21. In the meantime, here's a photo I came across yesterday.

I think it effectively communicates more than the difference in age between the brothers. Tamerlan is just so dominant in the photo. Even the way he has his arm around Jahar seems controlling to me. Looking at it, it is hard to see how, even years later, Jahar would be his "equal partner" in anything.

Also, here's a letter Dzhokhar submitted to UMass Dartmouth in January, 2013 in an application to have his financial aid reinstated: [More....]

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Tsarnaev Convicted on All Counts

The jury found Dzhokhar Tsarnaev guilty on all 30 counts today.

The Boston Globe, in an editorial, urges a life sentence.

For jurors who believe execution should be reserved for the worst criminals, the lawyers laid out a clear path to conclude Dzhokhar wasn’t even the worst of the Tsarnaevs.

....Tsarnaev was 19 at the time of the bombing; he was apparently a heavy drug user; he had no prior criminal record. By themselves, none of these would seem like a particularly good reason to spare him, but taken as a whole, and alongside evidence of his brother’s dominant role, they should plant seeds of doubt.

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Tsarnaev Jury to Begin Deliberations in Guilt Phase

The alternates in the Boston Marathon Bombing trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were disclosed today after closing arguments. The 12 jurors deciding his fate include 7 women and 5 men.

In closings today, the Government said Jahar and Tamerlan were partners and Jahar wanted to punish America. Reporter Jim Armstrong of WBZ in Boston has a lot of quotes from both side's closings on his twitter feed here.

Judy Clarke agreed Jahar committed the bombings, but focused on the different roles of the brothers. [More...]

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Two Queens Women Charged With Planning to Bomb Something Someday

Two women from Queens have been charged with planning to bomb some unspecified target. The news articles don't really tell the whole story. Here is the 19 page Affidavit in support of the Complaint.

They began studying how to make a bomb with an FBI agent in tow in an undercover capacity. He began meeting with one of them in 2013, and then with both of them in 2014, when the women were roommates. He met with them repeatedly, took them to Home Depot to get ingredients that could be useful in a bomb, printed them out copies of bomb making articles from AQAP's Inspire Magazine, as well as a copy of the Anarchist's Cookbook, and spent hours with them as they "studied" the materials.

The women told the agent they didn't know that they ever would use this knowledge, they just wanted to be prepared because the U.S. was at war with Muslims, and if it became time to set off a bomb, they didn't want it to fail to go off, as had happened to the Times Square bomber. Nor did they want to be suicide bombers. Nor were they in any hurry. [More...]

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Judy Clarke: How to Save a Life

Vanity Fair has an excellent new profile of Judy Clarke. My favorite line, and it is not an exaggeration:

Her record defending the indefensible speaks for itself. Among those who want capital punishment abolished in this country, Judy Clarke is the most effective champion in history.

A basic premise:

No person should be defined “by the worst moment, or worst day” of his life.

How she does it: [More...]

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Govt Rests in Tsarnaev Trial

The Government ended its case in the Boston Marathon bombing trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev with gory photos of the autopsy of child victim Martin Richards. At least three jurors cried, according to reporters tweeting from the courtroom.

An FBI photographer testified earlier this morning about where Tsarnaev was standing in relation to Richards. The Government tried to make the argument that Tsarnaev deliberately targeted the 8 year old. On cross, the defense showed other photos that had two people standing between Jahar and the boy, and pointed out Jahar walked away right after the first bomb went off, while the Richards family stayed where they were.

The witness used a diagram that, at the direction of the government, didn't depict the other people standing between Jahar and Richards. On Cross: [More...]

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Carjack Victim Testifies in Tsarnaev Trial

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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Tsarnaev: FBI Agent Clueless on Tweets

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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Tsarnaev: Judy Clarke's Opening Statement

Here are some quotes from reporters in the courtroom who listened to Judy Clarke's opening statement in Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's trial: Catherine Parrotta, Fox News and Jim Armstrong of WBZ (CBS):

"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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Tsarnaev Trial to Stay in Boston

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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Tsarnaev Trial Start Delayed, New Battle Over Venue

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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Jury Selection in Tsarnaev Trial and Comparisons

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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