By Richard Valdmanis
BOSTON (Reuters) - Lawyers for accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev argued on Wednesday that his trial should not start until prosecutors hand over all evidence they have about a 2011 triple murder that may have involved Tsarnaev's older brother Tamerlan.
Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty to federal charges he and his brother placed bombs at the finish line of the world-renowned race on April 15, 2013, killing three people and injuring more than 260. His trial is due to begin in January. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed days after the bombing in a shootout with police.
Defense attorney William Fick told U.S. District Judge George O'Toole at a status hearing in Boston that the Massachusetts triple murder could be relevant if it helps show Tamerlan Tsarnaev had a negative influence over the defendant.
"It would be extraordinarily relevant in a prospective sentencing phase in this case," Fick said. "If there is a law enforcement reason to not disclose this evidence, then this trial should be put on hold."
Ibragim Todashev, an acquaintance of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, told investigators in May 2013 that Tsarnaev had taken part in a triple murder in Waltham, Massachusetts, in which three men were stabbed to death, according to federal prosecutors. Todashev provided a confession and was later shot dead by law-enforcement agents who said he lunged at them, according to the FBI.
Prosecutors said they have shared all the information they have about Todashev's confession with Tsarnaev's defense team, adding that while the Waltham triple murder remains under investigation by local police, they are not privy to that investigation's findings.
O'Toole said he was reserving judgment on the defense request. He said he was also considering a defense motion to compel the prosecution to provide more information about its analysis of electronic evidence related to the marathon bombing.
O'Toole said defense attorneys must provide a list of the witnesses they plan to call in the trial next month, denying their request that the list remain secret.
(Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)