By MICHELE McPHEE
A federal judge in Boston ruled today that accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will be allowed to view the autopsy photos of his alleged victims, a move that the prosecution had argued would “re-victimize” the families of the dead.
Tsarnaev was not in court when Judge George O’Toole announced the ruling at a pre-trial hearing, shortly before the defense and prosecution began arguments concerning Tsarnaev’s visitation procedures.
In mid-March the prosecution had filed a motion requesting that Tsarnaev be barred from seeing some of the autopsy photos of those killed when two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon a year ago Tuesday. The bombs, allegedly planted by Tsarnaev and his older brother Tamerlan, killed three people, including an 8-year-old boy, and injured some 260 others. Days later the brothers also allegedly murdered MIT police officer Sean Collier.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a shootout with police hours after Collier was attacked. Dzhokhar was wounded and was later arrested. He has pleaded not guilty to 30 counts against him and could face the death penalty if convicted.
“Allowing photos of the mutilated bodies of the victims to be viewed by the man accused of mutilating them would needlessly re-victimize the family members in the same way that innocent children who are photographed pornographically are re-victimized whenever those photos are seen by others,” Assistant United States Attorney Nadine Pelligrini argued in a court filing last month. The restriction, the government said, would be limited to those images not entered as evidence in the trial.
In an opposition motion filed days later, Dzhokhar’s defense team argued that the prosecutors’ request was “unwarranted and publicly aggravates the very sensibilities and interests in dignity and privacy that the government seeks to protect.”
“In their collective experience, defense counsel are unaware of any case in which access to autopsy photographs has been conditioned on advance agreement not to review them with their client,” the defense wrote. “Decisions about what discovery materials must be shown to the defendant in order to prepare the defense should be left to the sound discretion of defense counsel.”
Dzhokhar’s trial is scheduled to begin in November. Boston will host the marathon again this year on Monday with 36,000 runners competing.
ABC News’ Lee Ferran contributed to this report. Michele McPhee is a freelance reporter and frequent ABC News contributor based in Boston.