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Boston Marathon Bomber Files Motion Seeking New Trial

(Reuters) – Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who has been sentenced to death, filed a motion in federal court on Monday seeking a new trial, according to court records.

The preliminary motion for a new trial cited a lack of evidence in his trial this spring, according to documents filed in federal court in Massachusetts.

Tsarnaev was convicted in April of killing three people and injuring 264 in the bombing near the finish line of the world-renowned Boston Marathon in 2013, as well as fatally shooting a police officer three days later.

The same jury voted for execution by injection in May.

At his formal sentencing on June 24, the 21-year-old ethnic Chechen apologized and admitted he and his now-dead older brother carried out the attack.

Attorneys for the convicted bomber described the motion as a “placeholder” and said they would spell out reasons for seeking a new trial in additional filings by Aug. 17.

Legal maneuvering over Tsarnaev’s fate could play out for years. Just three of the 74 people sentenced to death in the United States for federal crimes since 1998 have been executed.

Three people died in the bombing: Martin Richard, 8, Chinese exchange student Lingzi Lu, 26, and restaurant manager Krystle Campbell, 29.

Three days later, Tsarnaev and his 26-year-old brother, Tamerlan, shot dead Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer Sean Collier, 26.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev died following a gunfight with police that ended when Dzhokhar ran him over with a car.

At trial, prosecutors described the brothers as adherents of al Qaeda’s militant Islamist ideology who wanted to “punish America” with the attack on the marathon.

Tsarnaev’s attorneys admitted their client had played a role in the attack but tried to portray him as the junior partner in a scheme hatched and driven by his older brother, who was killed in a shootout with police a few days after the bombing.

(Reporting by Suzannah Gonzales and Ellen Wulfhorst; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Bill Trott)

Death Penalty For Tsarnaev Hurts Boston

Why was 21-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev sentenced to die in a state so generally opposed to capital punishment? A recent Boston Globe poll found that only 19 percent of Massachusetts residents wanted the Boston Marathon bomber put to death. The state hasn’t seen an execution since 1947.

That sentence happened because national politics took the matter out of local hands. The federal government forced a death penalty trial. Only those open to a death sentence were allowed to serve on the jury. That made the jury members unrepresentative of the local population and the outcome preordained.

The sentence has eroded a sense of unity — the notion that a community can stand up to an awful crime without compromising its moral objection to capital punishment. And it goes against national trends.

Americans’ support for the death penalty has sharply declined. Not long ago, about 80 percent of the American public favored it. A poll last year found 52 percent preferring life behind bars over execution.

Even some conservative states, such as Nebraska, are witnessing serious moves to end the death penalty. Opposition takes several forms: That capital punishment offends the pro-life ethic — as forcefully stated by Pope Francis. That executing someone who was wrongly convicted is an unspeakable horror. That the drawn-out and expensive appeals process that typically follows a death sentence serves no one, including the victims.

A discomfiting oddity of capital punishment is that whether and how it is applied depends on the place. The flamboyant cruelties of the Islamic State’s beheadings and the antiseptic lethal injections in death penalty states seem variations of the same thing.

In 2008, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled the electric chair unconstitutional. The current debate includes the shortage of drugs for lethal injections. These are discussions one shouldn’t want to have.

Many Americans, Bostonians included, remain adamant that criminals like Tsarnaev need to be eliminated, without much concern for the means. “I don’t think there’s any punishment too great for him,” Boston mayor Martin Walsh said after the sentencing.

And some who generally oppose the death penalty say they would make an exception in the case of terrorism. They describe the Tsarnaev brothers’ rampage as more an act of war than a multiple murder.

We must question, though, whether by defining a heinous crime as a politically inspired act, we are further inflating already grandiose misfits into historic figures. Fears that executing Tsarnaev will elevate the former college student into martyr status are not unfounded.

That his twisted admirers might respond with violence should not be a concern in meting out justice. Let that be said. But how much more diminished Tsarnaev would be if he were simply stored behind bars with the serial rapists and the holdup men.

The gruesome pomp that would surround a Tsarnaev execution could further move the marathon bombing focus from the crime and its victims to the criminal. That helps explain why some of the affected families have opposed a death sentence.

Bill and Denise Richard, whose 8-year-old son was murdered and whose 7-year-old daughter lost a leg in the bombing, have been among them. “For us,” they wrote, “the story of Marathon Monday 2013 should not be defined by the actions or beliefs of the defendant, but by the resiliency of the human spirit and the rallying cries of this great city.”

In sum, they don’t want Tsarnaev made more important than he is.

The marathon’s finish line, once a place to leave flowers, now evokes more complicated emotions. But the society that suffered the carnage did not have a say in the sentencing. That is one consolation for those Bostonians pained by the outcome.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com. 

Handout image shown to jurors on March 18, 2015 in Boston, courtesy of the U.S. Department of Justice, shows an evidence photo of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev at his home in Cambridge

Boston Defense Focuses On Tsarnaev’s Troubled Family

By Richard A. Serrano, Tribune Washington Bureau (TNS)

BOSTON — Close to wrapping up their case, defense lawyers for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev portrayed their client Tuesday as the product of a troubled and ailing Chechen father who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, and an angry, aggressive older brother who often picked fights in Boston.

Tsarnaev was found guilty last month on all 30 charges in the April 2013 bombings, and the jury of seven women and five men will soon be deciding whether the 21-year-Russian immigrant is moved to death row or spends the rest of his life in prison with no parole.

Defense lawyers, hoping for the life sentence, on Tuesday sought to show how he was affected by family members, from their history in the Chechen region to their immigration to Boston when Tsarnaev was eight.

There has been much testimony in the trial about his mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaev, who became a strict Muslim at the time that her oldest son, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was becoming an Islamic radical.

Testimony Tuesday was the first that centered on his father, Anzor Tsarnaev.

Dr. Alexander Niss, a former Boston psychiatrist who now practices in Los Angeles, testified that for two years he treated the father for PTSD, nightmares, anxiety, hallucinations, and near dementia. Niss said the father, a former boxer, was deeply affected by the Chechen wars in the 1990s.

“He had a lot of anxiety, and panic attacks,” Niss said. “He had flashbacks. He had a lot of paranoia. He was afraid of the Russian KGB, thought they were following him and looking through his window at his home.”

The father, who is living in Russia, was not called to testify.

Amanda Ransom, a college friend of Tamerlan’s wife, described Tamerlan’s cruel behavior, saying he dressed flashy, drove a Mercedes and was prone to starting fights. She recalled him once angrily punching a man for speaking to his wife Katherine and said she sometimes could hear him screaming and throwing things at her as well.

One night in their school dorm, she said, “I heard him laughing and she was crying in her room. After they had had sex he told her he had AIDS and when she started to cry, he laughed at her. He said he wasn’t serious, it was a joke.”

Henry Alvarez, a fellow high school wrestler with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, said he had been shocked to learn that his former teammate was arrested in the bombings. “I never could imagine he would do something like this,” Alvarez said.

The defense is expected to put on expert testimony about the harsh conditions at the federal Supermax prison, where Tsarnaev presumably would go if he is sentenced to life, and then end its case Wednesday or Thursday.

Photo: Boston Marathon Bombing via Facebook

30 For 30: Boston Jury Finds Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Guilty Of All Charges

The jury in the Boston bombings trial reached a verdict Wednesday, after deliberating behind closed doors for a combined 11 hours over the last two days. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was found guilty on all 30 counts against him.

Of the charges, 17 were related to the Boston Marathon bombing itself, and carry the possibility of the death penalty. These included conspiracy to use, and possession of, a weapon of mass destruction, possession and use of a firearm, and bombing of a public place. The remaining charges pertain to the aftermath of the bombing, as police tracked Tsarnaev and his brother, Tamerlan, who was killed in the pursuit.

As the 30 guilty verdicts were read, Tzarnaev looked down at his hands, showing no emotion, according to initial reports from the courtroom, which was silent.

Photo: Handout image shown to jurors on March 18, 2015 in Boston, courtesy of the U.S. Department of Justice, shows an evidence photo of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev at his home in Cambridge, MA. (afp.com)