April 24, 2013

Uphill battle for defense of Boston Marathon bomb suspect

The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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In this Monday, July 23, 2007 file photo, attorney Frank Rubino, left, talks to reporters as Jon May looks on during a news conference in Miami. Attorneys who handle terrorism and other notorious cases say public opinion is stacked against the defense for obvious reasons. Rubino, who represented former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega on drug conspiracy charges, agreed it wouldn't make sense to deny the younger Tsarnaev's involvement in the Boston Marathon bombings, but attorneys could try to spare his life by focusing on his age - 19 - and possible coercion by his older brother, Tamerlan, 26, who was killed Friday, April 19, 2013 in a fierce police shootout. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

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Authorities also have said they found a "large pyrotechnic" and BB pellets during a search of his dorm room at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth on Sunday. Among the shrapnel that struck victims were BBs.

It's far too soon to say what defense strategy Tsarnaev's lawyers will use. The federal public defender for Massachusetts, Miriam Conrad, has been appointed to represent him. Conrad is expected to be the lead attorney, but the office will bring in at least one, if not two lawyers, with death penalty experience.

Thomas H. Dupree Jr., a Washington, D.C., lawyer, says in most cases with so much evidence, the defense might consider an insanity defense, but that would be very difficult here. "This appears to be a carefully calculated, malevolent plot," he said.

Without that option, he said the defense could seek to enter a guilty plea in a deal to avoid the death penalty. "They may make the argument that he was not the ringleader and was under the spell of his brother," Dupree said. "I don't know how successful that would be."

The focus now should be on gathering the facts, he said. "If you're his lawyer you want to find out if there are any mitigating circumstances that might change the public view of him," Dupree added. "If the facts turn out to be what we see now, their focus should be on saving his life."

 

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