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Judge rules Tsarnaev can view victim autopsy photos

Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev can view the autopsy photographs of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is pictured in this undated FBI handout photo. Credit: Reuters Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is pictured in this undated FBI handout photo.
Credit: Reuters

Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev can view the autopsy photographs of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

Early in the hearing, U.S.Judge George O'Toole rejected the government's claim that Tsarnaev, 20, shouldn't be allowed to see the undoubtedly grisly pictures out of consideration for the families of the victims.

“Specifically, allowing photos of the mutilated bodies of the victims to be viewed by the man accused of mutilating them would needlessly revictimize the family members in the same way that innocent children who are photographed pornographically are revictimized whenever those photos are seen by others,” prosecutors said in a six-page court filing last month.

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The ruling comes one day after the anniversary of the April 15, 2013 marathon bombings, which took the lives of two women and an 8-year-old boy.

Defense attorneys also argued that they need information IbragimTodashev gave authorities investigating a Waltham triple homicide because it may shed light on their client's alleged involvement in the deadly terror attack.

Tsarnaev's older brother, Tamerlan, who was killed in a shootout with police days after the bombing, was allegedly named by Todashev as the person responsible for slashing the throats of three people.

If so, the younger Tsarnaev may have been influenced by his brother, defense said.

"The fact that Tamerlan slit the throats of three helpless people, one of whom was described as a close friend, whether the defendant ever learned of it or not is clearly a very important part of this story in terms of who is the motivating, the leading, the active participant in what happened later [the bombings]," said Defense Attorney David Bruck.

O'Toole said he will examine the Todashev statement privately before ruling on whether to release it to the defense.

The judge also seemed to be leaning towards allowing Tsarnaev to have private meetings with his two sisters - without the presence of investigators - although he did not rule on that matter today.

“I don’t think the safety, security issue looms very large,” O'Toole said in response to prosecutors' claim that the presence of an FBI agent is necessary for safety reasons.

Of a potential security threat, Bruck said "There is no more conspiracy. If the government's theory is right, there were two people [behind the bombings] and one of them is dead." Bruck also argued that it is critical that they are able to observe the relationship between Tsarnaev and his sister's without investigators there, to get a sense of the family dynamic.

"It is impossible for there to be any real, meaningful communication as it is," Bruck said, describing the communication between the three as "stilted and cautious."

"Nothing will be learned," he said.

However, prosecutors said "what is quite clear is that the defendant felt fee to say whatever he wanted," and that the defense team had an "inability to control" what Tsarnaev said during the jailhouse meetings.

The next court date is set for June 18.

 
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