Boston bomber’s defence to focus on dead brother

2015-02-02 11:41
Dzohkhar Tsarnaev (AP)

Dzohkhar Tsarnaev (AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Boston - The best chance to save the life of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev might be to put his dead brother on trial.

When Tsarnaev's case begins, his lawyers are likely to pin their hopes - and the bombings themselves - on his older brother, Tamerlan: an amateur boxer, college student, husband and father who followed radical Islam and was named by a friend as a participant in a grisly 2011 triple slaying.

"He was the eldest one and he, in many ways, was the role model for his sisters and his brother," said Elmirza Khozhugov, the former husband of Tamerlan's sister, Ailina.

"You could always hear his younger brother and sisters say, 'Tamerlan said this', and 'Tamerlan said that'. Dzhokhar loved him. He would do whatever Tamerlan would say," Khozhugov told The Associated Press in the weeks after the bombings.

Three people were killed and more than 260 were injured when two homemade pressure-cooker bombs exploded near the finish line of the iconic race on 15 April 2013.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, died days after the bombings following a gun battle with police. Dzhokhar, then 19, was later found hiding in a boat parked in a backyard. Jury selection in his federal death penalty trial is entering its second month. With a snow storm in the forecast, proceedings on Monday were cancelled and jury selection was to resume on Tuesday.

'Heavily influenced'

Dzhokhar's lawyers have made it clear they will try to show that he was heavily influenced, maybe even intimidated, by his older brother, into participating in the bombings. Prosecutors are prepared to argue that Dzhokhar was a full and willing participant in the bombings.

If a jury convicts Dzhokhar, its decision on whether to give him life in prison or sentence him to death could depend "on the extent to which it views Tamerlan Tsarnaev as having induced or coerced his young brother" to help commit the crimes, the defence argued in a court filing.

About a decade before the attack, their parents, ethnic Chechens, had moved the family to the US from the volatile Dagestan region of Russia after living in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan. Their father, Anzor Tsarnaev, told The Associated Press they emigrated in part to escape discrimination.

The relationship between the two brothers would likely be a key part of the evidence Dzhokhar's lawyers present even if he's convicted, said lawyer David Hoose.

Under the federal death penalty law, juries deciding on a sentence can consider whether a defendant "was under unusual and substantial duress," regardless of whether duress is used as a defence to the charges.

Older brother

Prosecutors have said that a friend of Tamerlan, Ibragim Todashev, implicated him in the killings of three men whose bodies were found sprinkled with marijuana, their throats cut. Todashev was shot to death by an FBI agent after authorities said he charged another investigator with a pole while being questioned about the Tsarnaevs.

"If they can show that the older brother is gruesomely involved in the murders, all the more reason that Dzhokhar felt that not only is he my brother - he is someone not to fool around with. I have to do what he says,'" Hoose said.

Tamerlan's school friends say he appeared to adjust well to his life in America. In 2010, he married Katherine Russell, a woman he met at a nightclub, and the couple had a daughter together.

Authorities believe Tamerlan's beliefs became radical during the last few years of his life.

In March 2011, Russian officials told the FBI that Tamerlan was a follower of radical Islam. The FBI interviewed Tamerlan, but closed its investigation several months later after finding nothing linking him to terrorism.

In 2012, Tamerlan spent six months in the southwest Russian regions of Chechnya and Dagestan, where authorities have said they suspect he tried to join insurgents, but was unsuccessful.

Read more on:    dzhokhar tsarnaev  |  us  |  boston bombings

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.