Tsarnaev lawyers want evidence on triple killing

Denise LaVoie
Associated Press

Boston — Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev urged a judge Wednesday to order federal prosecutors to turn over any evidence they have about his brother’s alleged participation in a 2011 triple killing or to consider postponing Tsarnaev’s trial.

Tsarnaev, who has pleaded not guilty in the 2013 bombing, faces the possibility of the death penalty if convicted. Three people were killed and more than 260 injured in the explosions.

Authorities say Tsarnaev, then 19, and his 26-year-old brother, Tamerlan, planted and detonated pressure-cooker bombs near the marathon finish line. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed several days later in a shootout with police.

During a status conference Wednesday in federal court, Tsarnaev’s lawyers said prosecutors have not turned over any evidence about Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s supposed role in the triple slaying since last year, when they said in court papers that Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s friend told investigators that Tamerlan participated in the killings.

That friend, Ibragim Todashev, was shot and killed at his home in Florida last year while he was being questioned by the FBI and Massachusetts State Police. Authorities have said an FBI agent shot Todashev after he charged at a state trooper with a pole, but Todahsev’s family has challenged that account.

William Fick, one of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s lawyers, told Judge George O’Toole Jr. that any evidence of Tamerlan’s involvement in the triple slaying would be “extremely relevant” if Tsarnaev is convicted. The jury would then be asked to decide whether Tsarnaev, 21, should be executed.

Fick said evidence that Tamerlan participated in the triple slaying could bolster a defense argument that Dzhokhar was influenced or coerced by his older brother to participate in the marathon bombings.

“I really can’t overstate the potential importance of this information,” Fick said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney William Weinreb said federal prosecutors have no additional information to give the defense. He said state prosecutors in Middlesex County are actively investigating the triple homicide in Waltham, a Boston suburb.

“What they have in their files is in their files. It’s not in our possession,” Weinreb said.

The judge did not immediately rule on the defense request and did not indicate when he would issue his ruling.