Attorneys for Boston bomber suspect, feds squabble over evidence

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 14, 2014 7:06 AM

By Scott Malone

BOSTON (Reuters) - Federal prosecutors and lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev argued on Thursday over how much evidence each side needs to disclose to the other ahead of his trial for the deadly attack.

Tsarnaev is awaiting trial on charges of killing three people and injuring more than 260 in the April 15, 2013, bombing and fatally shooting a police officer three days later. He faces the threat of execution if convicted and prosecutors argued they deserve early notice of what experts the defense plans if there is a sentencing hearing.

"Federal criminal trials should not be waged by surprise," Assistant U.S. Attorney William Weinreb said at a pre-trial hearing at U.S. District Court in Boston. "Each side is supposed to have notice, generally, of what the other side is trying to prove."

Defense attorneys complained that they were overwhelmed by the volume of evidence, including thousands of witness interviews, computer records, fingerprints and photos of shrapnel recovered from the stretch of Boylston Street where bombs went off and said they believed prosecutors were being unreasonable asking for details of evidence that would not be presented until after a conviction.

"The government has more information about Mr. Tsarnaev than most of us have about ourselves," said David Bruck, a death penalty defense specialist. "We need to put aside this claim of unfairness, that the government is completely in the dark."

District Judge George O'Toole did not immediately rule on the evidence issues, nor on a request by defense attorneys to move the trial, currently set to begin in November, out of Boston.

Prosecutors contend Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan, planted the bombs and later shot dead a university police officer. Tamerlan died after an April 18, 2013, gunbattle with police following the officer's slaying. Dzhokhar was captured the next day.

(Reporting by Scott Malone. Editing by Andre Grenon)