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By Richard A. Serrano, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

BOSTON — Defense lawyers in the Boston Marathon bombing trial are expected to close their case Tuesday with just one more witness and send Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s fate to the jury on whether he is guilty in the mass explosions that killed three people two years ago.

The new witness will be their third, after government prosecutors called 92 witnesses over four weeks to prove Tsarnaev ignited one of the two pressure cooker bombs at the finish line of the race, injuring more than 260 other people.

On Monday, the government rested its case, and defense lawyers called just two witnesses to the stand Monday afternoon. Gerald R. Grant Jr., a forensics investigator, said cellphone records show Tsarnaev was not with his older brother, Tamerlan, when Tamerlan purchased BBs for bomb components and two large backpacks to hide the bombs.

They also called an FBI photographer. She identified several pictures taken moments before the blasts, as defense lawyers sought to show their client did not purposely target the Richard family. Martin Richard, 8, was killed, and his sister, 6-year-old Jane, lost a leg.

The defense also late Monday night filed a motion asking the judge to dismiss the 30-count indictment against Tsarnaev, which includes 17 capital murder charges. They allege the government over-charged their client and did not prove other allegations against the 21-year-old former college student.

They also contended that Tsarnaev should not be held responsible for a police officer who was wounded in a shootout with the Tsarnaev brothers several days after the bombings. They said witness testimony and other evidence indicates the officer could have been shot by cross-fire from other police officer.

(c)2015 Los Angeles Times, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

Photo: Medical workers aid injured people at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon following an explosion in Boston, Monday, April 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Poll: Most Parents Oppose Rapid School Reopening

Numerous local school systems around the country are plowing ahead with plans to resume in-person instruction despite growing evidence that children are just as capable of spreading the coronavirus as adults.

Classes were set to begin on Monday in Baker County, Florida. Masks for students will be optional, not required. "It looks like it's back to normal this morning, honestly," a local television reporter observed as parents dropped their kids off in the morning. Many students wore no face coverings.

The Trump administration and the GOP have pushed for full reopening of schools for months."Schools in our country should be opened ASAP," Donald Trump tweeted in May. "Much very good information now available."

"SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!" he reiterated on July 6.

"The science and data is clear: children can be safe in schools this fall, and they must be in school this fall," demanded Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) on Aug. 1.

"I believe our schools can, and should rise to the occasion of re-opening for in-person education this fall," agreed Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) two days later.

"The CDC and Academy of Pediatrics agree: We can safely get students back in classrooms," tweeted House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) last Tuesday.

But while Scalise, Mike Pence, and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have all cited the American Academy of Pediatrics in their arguments for reopening, a new study by the group and the Children's Hospital Association raises red flags about how safe that will be.

Their report found 338,982 reported coronavirus cases in children as of July 30 in the United States. Between July 16 and July 30, the nation saw a 40% increase — 97,078 new infected children.

Last week, a high school student in an Atlanta suburb posted a photo online showing few students wearing masks in a crowded school hallway. Since that time, at least six students and three adult employees in the school have reportedly contracted the coronavirus, and the school temporarily has switched to online classes.

Another Georgia school district has already seen at least 13 students and staff members test positive since reopening a week ago.

A recent study in South Korea found that children aged ten and older spread the coronavirus at the same rates adults do. A separate study in Chicago suggested young kids might also be effective spreaders.

These contradict the false claims made by Trump and his administration that kids have an "amazing" near immunity to COVID-19.

"If you look at children, children are almost — and I would almost say definitely, but almost immune from this disease, so few. They've got stronger, hard to believe, and I don't know how you feel about it, but they have much stronger immune systems than we do somehow for this," Trump told Fox News on Wednesday.

"You got to open the schools. They have a stronger immune system even than you have or I have," he told Barstool Sports on July 23. "It's amazing. You look at the percentage, it's a tiny percentage of one percent. And in that one case, I mean, I looked at a couple of cases. If you have diabetes, if you have, you know, problems with something, but the kids are in great shape." Children have made up nearly nine percent of all cases, even with schools mostly closed.

And DeVos incorrectly said in a July 16 interview, "More and more studies show that kids are actually stoppers of the disease and they don't get it and transmit it themselves."

In early July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines for how schools could operate more safely during the pandemic.

Trump publicly ridiculed the guidelines, dismissing them as "very tough & expensive" and "very impractical."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.