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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

How The Case Against Dzokhar Tsarnaev Might Proceed

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, seated, recovering from a broken leg, pauses with Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis at the blast site on Boylston Street between Dartmouth and Exeter Streets near the Boston Marathon finish line Monday, April 22, 2013, in Boston. Federal investigators formally released the finish line bombing crime scene to the city in a brief ceremony at 5 p.m. (Robert F. Bukaty/AP)

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, seated, recovering from a broken leg, pauses with Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis at the blast site on Boylston Street between Dartmouth and Exeter Streets near the Boston Marathon finish line Monday, April 22, 2013, in Boston. Federal investigators formally released the finish line bombing crime scene to the city in a brief ceremony at 5 p.m. (Robert F. Bukaty/AP)

Prosecutors have made it clear that the evidence in the case against Dzokhar Tsarnaev will include the photographs and dramatic video evidence of his role in the Boston Marathon bombings.

“The video evidence seems pretty conclusive. You don’t need any intention beyond the intent to plant the bombs.”
– Alan Dershowitz

The 11-page criminal complaint against Tsarnaev includes a complete analysis of images showing the suspect clearly placing a backpack moments before a second bomb exploded at the exact spot.

In addition, reports now say that Tsarnaev admitted that he and his brother had a role in the bombings, and said that his brother’s desire to protect Islam from attack was the motive.

In the face of such strong evidence and statements Tsarnaev has made to investigators about his role in the bombings, can Tsarnaev’s attorneys mount a credible defense?

Lawyer Alan Dershowitz, who has defended several high-profile clients, calls it an “open/shut case.”

“The video evidence seems pretty conclusive. You don’t need any intention beyond the intent to plant the bombs,” Dershowitz told Here & Now’s Robin Young. “They didn’t indict him as a terrorist, which would require intent to intimidate or terrorize.”

This photo released Friday, April 19, 2013 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation shows a suspect that officials identified as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, being sought by police in the Boston Marathon bombings Monday. (FBI)

This photo released Friday, April 19, 2013 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation shows the Boston Marathon bombings suspect, who officials identified as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. (FBI)

Dershowitz said he would not be surprised to hear a “my brother made me do it” defense, along with an offer of cooperation, in an effort to avoid the death penalty.

The likelihood of Tsarnaev receiving a plea deal would depend on what information he has to share, Dershowitz said.

“It depends on whether he has information about his brother’s trip to Russia, whether he met with Chechens, whether he can tell them what websites they follow, if they became kind of homegrown self-determined terrorists, who they listened to — anything like that might be tradeable for life,” Dershowitz said.

He noted though, that “there’s going to be a lot of pressure to impose the death penalty.”


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  • Info

    I hate to sound pedantic, but doesn’t “assassination” usually refer to a surprise attack against a “prominent” person, especially for political or social motives? I think “ambush” would be a better characterization of the murder of the police officer.  It’s not a big deal, but words matter, and when we overuse words like “terrorist” or “assassination”, out of outrage or for dramatic effect, or whatever, they lose their distinct meaning.  

  • Info

    I also find it odd that someone can mow down a couple dozen people with an assault rifle and be charged “only” with mass murder, whereas using a pipe bomb to kill several people is classed as a use of a “weapon of mass destruction”, with implications for terrorism-related charges. Both acts seem equally violent, and evil, to me. The only difference being the weapon that was used to achieve the violent effect. 

    • radicallyalyssa

      Because you’re somehow forgetting that almost 200 others were blown up, and and half of those injured lost part or an entire limb.  

  • chris

    is there a more discerning choice than Dershowitz?   what a blathering rant — I really prefer thoughtful people over raging egos — surely you can do better???

    • Ulrich Robin

      Please…he made a point that few have brought up as of yet.  Apparently bombings are okay as long as you are friends with the President.  If that’s not the case, then why condemn the messenger?

  • Info

    Does Mr. Dershowitz feel the same outrage over the terrorism (violence with a political/social motive) committed against civilians by our military forces, not to mention the lack of support our violence-traumatized military personnel face after their service? Surely those things must not be justified and glorified, either.  

    • http://profiles.google.com/barry.kort Barry Kort

      Robin can correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe Homer had a pretty good narrative account of PTSD in The Odyssey.

  • http://profiles.google.com/barry.kort Barry Kort

    The issue Professor Dershowitz raises about the double standard (comparing the case of the Tsarnaev brothers to that of the Weather Underground) is interesting.

    There is also the (more defensible) double standard of unlawful political violence (as perpetrated, for example, by the Weather Underground) and lawful political violence (as carried out by military operations in foreign lands).

    But it’s unclear to me how one sustains the double standard separating lawful from unlawful political violence, given that the laws are made by the faction that is legalizing (or legitmizing) their brand of terrifying violence.

    From the point of view of an Anthropologist from Mars, it would seem to be a distinction without a difference. In either case, bombs (weapons of mass destruction) kill children and innocent civilians.

    • Info

       There are certain uncomfortable questions one does not ask in polite society…

      • http://profiles.google.com/barry.kort Barry Kort

        The word you are looking for is mokita — the truth everyone knows but dares not speak aloud.

        • Mokita Syzygy


  • Howard Ashley

    It seems to always be assumed that someone in  Dzhokha’s situation would want to escape the death penalty.  The state of his health at present is so fragile that IMO speculation on how likely it would be to carry out an execution in the future are far fetched. I think the greater punishment would be to force  Dzhokhar to live out the rest of his life as a cripple the way hundreds of his victim’s will have to live the remainder of their lives.  The death penalty is no punishment. Not the way we do it… sedatives… lethal injection.. we do it for our animals as a kindness. We cajole terminally ill loved one’s to fight to the last pain racked ragged breath… … let’s not be too quick to let this dirtbag off easy…

    • günter hiller

      What form of death penalty do you fancy Howard?  Death by stoning?
      It’s a slow death with a lot of pain!
      My mother was gassed,  judged to be a “humane death” by leading Nazis.
      True, it was administered without sedatives, but less agonizing than being
      worked and beaten to death, the fate that befell my father. 
      What we have here is a question of calibrating punishment.
      That seems to be your central concern.

      I am against the death penalty And against life-long prison sentences
      in the bureaucratically administered criminal-justice system in our amoral
      capitalist society. 
      Why people commit crimes is a complicated issue.  It may be better understood
      through the advancement of brain science.  But long ago, Plato defended
      the thesis that “no one does evil knowingly.”  And if we believe Jesus, who said
      that those who harbor the thought of murder in their hearts, have sinned 
      as if they had committed the act.  Then, let those who are without sin, cast
      the first stone.

      I believe that indeed, some murderers, psychopaths, are incapable of feeling
      guilt.  How a society should deal with them awaits an answer.
      But those who, when confronted with what they have caused, feel remorse,
      ought to be given a chance to fully repent.

      When we lived in a religious world, it was assumed that, after the death penalty
      was carried out, the criminal would face the judgment of God, and perhaps
      be shown a path to redemption.

      Now we live in a secular world which does not allow us, as a society,
      to make that assumption.  So if we carry out the death penalty, it is,
      for all we know, absolute.

      Any criminal should, I believe, have a chance for redemption.  
      For us to deny another that chance, which is not an easy way out,
      is to make monsters of us all.
      For me this is not idle talk.  I was against the execution of Adolf Eichmann,
      who was instrumental in the murder of my parents.

      Who are we, Howard Ashley?

    • http://moultonlava.blogspot.com/ Mokita Syzygy

      A year ago, on his Twitter account, Jahar wrote (in Russian) “I will die young.”

  • Andyk

    Please think long and hard about using Alan Dershowitz as a consultant. His rant was motivated by some scary hate thing that he carries around with him, it wandered way off topic, and contained misleading and inaccurate information.  I swear I could see his spittle spattered over the microphone.  

    • Ulrich Robin

      Funny you think discussing the weathermen (a group who set bombs as part of their M.O.) is not related to these two kids (who also set bombs as part of the M.O.)

      Apparently bomb setting is okay only if you happen to be buddies with a President.    

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=21300012 Meghann Elizabeth

        More inflammatory rhetoric re: The Weathermen. What you conveniently leave out is that The WUO never intended to kill civilians. 

        • Ulrich Robin

          Well then I guess that makes it okay…you know since they gave fair warning and all. Cue eye roll.

    • Jboyko1

      When listening to someone with whom they disagree, why do so many people resort to name calling and using pejorative comments like “rant”, “scary hate thing” and “spittle spattered over the microphone” instead of a thoughtful response or rebuttal? 

      What did Dershowitz say about the Weathemen that was misleading and inaccurate?What’s scary is the so-called defense of them by others on (and off) this forum:  “…the Weathermen weren’t cowards like these two boys…” – really?!)  and why it shouldn’t matter.  It does matter, and the people our President chooses to surround himself with (like Bill Ayers) matters.

      Ayers was a founding member of the Weathermen and encouraged violence to achieve their goals.   Group members were convicted of  murdering 4 people, and were suspected in other bombing and murders which were never conclusively solved.  And now he’s an advisor to the most powerful man on the planet.

      • Jboyko1

        Correction:  Ayers WAS an advisor to Pres Obama…his current role is unclear.  The fact remains that he had/has some influence with him, and Obama has defended their relationship.

  • Stevevaughn85

    Seeing how this administration has handled confrontation with Islam in the past such as arresting a pastor in Fla for burning the coran and then arresting the gentleman for the short film he made that didn’t get those 4 Americans killed in Libya, and then deported a Saudi Nationalist after reporting he was arrested for invilvement in the Boston bombing, what will our president do if Islam threatins us for convicting this man?

  • Trudie

    I have been wondering how these two young men one in college and one unemployed had funding to build this aresenal…how could it be just these two?

    • http://moultonlava.blogspot.com/ Mokita Syzygy

      The whole point of Asymmetrical Warfare (or Guerilla Warfare) is that the weaker side can operate at near zero cost, and the stronger side will bankrupt their treasury responding.

  • Megdecker

    Does it make a difference whether the three deaths were caused by the first or second bomb?

  • Navin_Johnson

    The Dersh? Really?!
    Why not just have David Duke on too.

    • Ulrich Robin

      Yes we know. You would prefer Robin Young choose someone who doesn’t  talk about President Obama’s buddies blowing up stuff because you sympathize with them. How nice of you. 

      • Navin_Johnson

        Thanks for reminding us that his fans are complete far right extremist lunatics. A perfect example: You [insane person] and Dersh fan think that these lunatics are “Obama’s” or “anybody’s” buddies. THANK YOU for illustrating how dangerous it is to seek commentary from such completely fringe, extremist people as A.D.

        • Ulrich Robin


          I’m the insane one because I agree with Dershowitz and I don’t think people who set off bombs should be glorified.  

          Glad we cleared that up. 

  • TL Bear

    Mr. Dershowitz has an inexcusably selective memory. Terrorists throughout time have gone on to become respected national leaders, depending on the winds of politics. Recent examples include certain members of Israel’s Stern Gang and the IRA political wing. The list is very, very long indeed. I think it is time to retire the good professor as a reliable, clear minded commentator. 

    • Ulrich Robin

      Why all the sympathy? Is it because Bill Ayers is Obama’s buddy?

      • TL Bear

        There is absolutely nothing about sympathy in my remarks. Nothing. Please read it more carefully. 

        • Ulrich Robin

          I re-read it.  You claim that some terrorists do become respected national leaders. That is sympathy by anyone’s standards.  

    • http://moultonlava.blogspot.com/ Mokita Syzygy

      Take note of perhaps the most famous example in history, the story of Harmodius and Aristogieton who became known as the Tyrannicides after they killed the Peisistratid tyrant Hipparchus, and became the symbol of democracy to ancient Athenians.

      Boston poet, Edgar Allen Poe wrote a “Hymn to Harmodius and Aristogieton.”

      Wreathed in myrtle, my sword I’ll conceal
      Like those champions devoted and brave,
      When they plunged in the tyrant their steel,
      And to Athens deliverance gave.

      Beloved heroes! your deathless souls roam
      In the joy breathing isles of the blest;
      Where the mighty of old have their home
      Where Achilles and Diomed rest

      In fresh myrtle my blade I’ll entwine,
      Like Harmodius, the gallant and good,
      When he made at the tutelar shrine
      A libation of Tyranny’s blood.

      Ye deliverers of Athens from shame!
      Ye avengers of Liberty’s wrongs!
      Endless ages shall cherish your fame,
      Embalmed in their echoing songs!
      Regenerate in equality.

  • Film Lover

    Perhaps it would be a good idea if Alan Dershowitz actually saw the movies he condemns. Robert Redford’s most recent film, the one about the sins of the Weathermen (and women), does not justify their violence. On the contrary it shows the price paid for thoughtless violence.

  • andic_epipedon

    I’m confused now.  I thought I saw a documentary a few years ago that said The Weathermen never killed anyone? 

    Additionally, I don’t think its the same because the group claimed responsibility for their actions and had strategic targets based on their beliefs.  I don not think they were cowards unlike these two boys.  I don’t know whether what the Weathermen did was right or wrong.  I either wasn’t alive or was young when it happened.  The one thing that is clear to me is that the Boston Bombing is nothing like what the Weathermen did.  

    The other thing I don’t understand as has been commented on earlier is what is with the weapon of mass destruction charge?  It doesn’t make sense and is giving more weight to the actions of this young man.  Doesn’t killing three individuals warrant the death penalty without the addition of a WMD?  This isn’t the first time this country has gone off kilter based on someone’s false statements of WMD’s.

    • Jboyko1

      The Weathermen advocated violence to achieve their goals, and members were convicted of killing four people.  The group was suspected of other bombings and murders which could never be conclusively proven.  What they and the Tsarnaev brothers did is EXACTLY the same thing.  It’s terrorism no matter how you slice it. 

      • andic_epipedon

        After further research, I still do not feel that the original Weathermen organization killed anyone.  A few members were convicted of killing three people in a bank robbery in 1981 after the dissolution of the original group.  One event that resulted in the death of a police officer was later attributed to another radical organization.  I can not find any evidence that the Weathermen group ever hurt anyone.

        It’s interesting how we throw out the word terrorism without much thought.  But what is terrorism really?  Are you willing to give these two pathetic criminals of the Boston Bombing the label of terrorist.  The Weathermen may have more in common with terrorists since they declared war against the United States, but they were also idealists with many of the same core beliefs as many of the young people of their day.  Did you know that radical leftist groups still exist on college campuses and the big difference between them and the 99% is that they are prepared to use violence while most of us that are not struggle with the ineptitude of the Democratic Party.

        Who was the first terrorist?  Was it the Native Americans or was it the Colonists?  Was it the British who implemented the Boston Massacre or the Boston Tea Party that tarred (poured hot tar) over innocent merchants?  I find that labeling domestic problems as terrorism is fraught with problems.   In our quest to label people as terrorists we often forget that we are a nation of revolutionaries and history often lets the winners write the history books.

  • marygrav

    Alan Dershowitz was a great Civil Rights lawyer until he became an American Zionist/Neocon.  This has blinded him to the fact that the US has problem throughout the Middle East and the Muslim world because the US is not an honest broker.  It always retrenches in the face of Israel’s intrangigence.   But any American who offers this is labeled an anti-Semite–instead a patriot who wants peace.

    He seems to be arguing both sides.  He is not to be trusted and will give more aid to the enemy than the living bomber himself.

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