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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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Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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