Editor’s note: Karin Friedemann is a TMO Columnist. Her opinions are her own.
Demonstrators held signs in front of Boston’s federal courthouse on October 20, 2014 during the last hearing for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was accused of the Boston Marathon bombings.
Arina Montag of Haverhill, Massachusetts told reporters she believes Tsarnaev and his late brother are being unfairly prosecuted.
“I believe the boys have been set up,” she said. “I haven’t seen any actual evidence against them. I mean I’ve seen circumstantial evidence. Nothing that actually links them to what they are allegedly being accused of doing.”
Elena Teyer, the mother-in-law of Ibragim Todashev, was one of the seven people speaking out against the justice system. Her daughter’s husband was shot seven times and killed in his Florida home by federal agents from Boston in May 2013. Teyer held a collage of his autopsy photographs.
“I am dead because I knew Tsarnaevs. I knew the truth,” her sign read.
Teyer told reporters about the email between FBI agents after they killed Todashev. It says, “Good work. A job well done.” The email congratulated the FBI team for their success! It did not say, “Well that turned uglier than we had planned.” This can only imply that they were sent from Boston to Orlando to murder a potential witness.
“They came from Boston to kill my son-in-law. I know that for sure.”
“We are all here for justice,” said Teyer, detailing to reporters the holes and inconsistencies in law enforcement’s account of Todashev’s death.
The news story of the alleged Todashev confession – that he and Tamerlan Tsarnaev were involved a drug-related 2011 triple homicide in Waltham, Massachusetts – was originally leaked to the media by reporter Michelle McPhee. There is a bloodstained note partially written, never signed. Todashev apparently had refused to continue with this forced confession, and paid with his brains splattered next to his front door.
Government prosecutors mentioned this unsigned confession letter in a previous court filing as if it were indeed undisputed fact. Defense attorneys have since tried repeatedly without success to compel the government to give some more details about these murders, which seem to be unrelated to the Boston Marathon bombing.
On October 24, 2014, four days after the hearing, US prosecutors filed with the court their opposition to Tsarnaev’s Fourth Motion to Compel [Discovery]. In order to avoid having to hand over any evidence to the defense, US prosecutors now suddenly admit:
“The government has no evidence that Tamerlan Tsarnaev actually participated in the Walham murders.”
J.M. Lawrence, who writes for Bloomberg and the Boston Globe, tweets: “If US ‘has no evidence’ Tamerlan murdered 3 in Waltham, was the Todashev ‘confession’ in FL false? Lots of unanswered questions.”
McPhee’s most recent article in Newsweek entitled “Twisted Sisters” took heat inside the courtroom. The Islamophobic article painted a negative picture of the Tsarnaev family and contained a number of factual errors. McPhee’s article states that she was tipped off by a high ranking law enforcement official. McPhee is also the source of other erroneous stories related to the Boston Marathon bombing like the “note in the boat.”
Media leaks are very serious, because the TV version of events is extremely absent from the actual court proceedings – but heavily weighs the jury’s mindset against the defendant. Tsarnaev’s motion to address leaks “requests that the Court hold a hearing, and direct government counsel to produce the supervising law enforcement officers with access to information about this case including both federal and state supervising agents or officers – to testify about their instructions and efforts to investigate and stop unauthorized communications with news media.”
The other big issue is the government intimidation of witnesses. The government wants the defense to reveal the names of Jahar’s old friends and relatives long before the trial. This is something that is not normally done, and the defense is not going along with it, because they fear for the safety of these people and they also fear that these people once the FBI starts harassing them, will cease to become defense witnesses.
“Defense counsel have described the unusual and severe obstacles they have encountered in their efforts to interview and secure testimony from potential witnesses who knew the defendant, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and other members of his family prior to April 15, 2013… A substantial part of these difficulties stems from the aggressive, persistent and pervasive law enforcement presence in the lives of many potential defense witnesses, and the atmosphere of fear and intimidation that has necessarily followed…”
“Given the virtual certainty that the FBI will descend on each of the non-expert witnesses to interview them (and in most cases, to re-interview them), the defendant has a well-founded concern that in the very unusual context of this case, defense witnesses whose identities are disclosed to the government prior to trial will quickly cease to be defense witnesses. For this reason, the defense does not agree to a witness disclosure requirement that is not mandated by statute or rule.”
1,000 potential jurors will be screened for Tsarnaev’s trial, District Judge George O’Toole said at Monday’s hearing. The process of picking the 12 jurors and six alternates who will hear the case against Tsarnaev is expected to begin on November 3, 2014.