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Appeals Court Rejects Tsarnaev Request for Trial Delay

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.

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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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Tsarnaev Defense Seeks Venue Change From Appeals Court

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 Seeks Trial Delay

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 Appears in Court

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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New Prosecution Over Non-Existent Oregon Training Camp

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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Robel Philippos: Verdict Watch

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.

[More...]

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Azamat Tazhayakov Testifies Against Robel Phillipos

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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Tsarnaev Friend's Trial Opens with Stoner Defense

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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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.

[More...]

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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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