Boston Marathon Bombing Defense Strategy: Older Brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev Could Not Be ‘Disobeyed’

Attorneys give glimpse of possible defense in new court filings.

ByABC News
March 28, 2014, 6:30 PM
Smoke rises after two explosions went off near the finish line of the 117th Boston Marathon, April 15, 2013. FBI released an image of suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev before he was apprehended.
Smoke rises after two explosions went off near the finish line of the 117th Boston Marathon, April 15, 2013. FBI released an image of suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev before he was apprehended.
Boston Globe via Getty Images | FBI/AP Photo

March 28, 2014 — -- New motions filed by the defense team for suspected Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev reveal how the attorneys may plan, at least in part, to show the younger brother was acting at the behest of his older brother, Tamerlan, in his role in the deadly dual bombing, saying Tamerlan may have been “all-powerful” in the relationship.

According to court documents filed today, defense attorneys are seeking an unredacted version of a U.S. government report on the shooting death of Ibragim Todashev, an associate of Tamerlan’s who the FBI said attacked one of their agents and Massachusetts State Troopers during an interview in his Orlando home last year. The FBI said that before the FBI agent on the scene killed him with seven shots, Todashev had confessed to being “involved” in a 2011 unsolved triple murder in Massachusetts and had implicated Tamerlan as well.

“That Tamerlan’s having committed a gruesome triple murder,” the defense argues in the recent court filings, “would powerfully support the inference that Dzhokhar experienced his older brother as an all-powerful force who could not be ignored or disobeyed.”

Defense attorneys also want to know whether federal prosecutors in Boston plan to use at trial evidence obtained through electronic surveillance on Tamerlan, the existence of which was revealed this week in another report, this time from the House Homeland Security Committee. That report detailed how U.S. law enforcement had investigated Tamerlan in 2011 after a warning from Russian intelligence about possible extremism but found no ties to terrorist organizations.

READ: Congressional Report Confirms Boston Bomber Name Misspelled in Security Database

“Any surveillance, evidence, or interviews showing that Tamerlan pursuit of jihad predated Dzhokhar’s would tend to support the theory that Tamerlan was the main instigator of the tragic events that followed,” the defense said in court documents.

The defense predicts prosecutors will try to persuade the jury that “the brothers were equally culpable” for the Marathon attacks “despite the marked differences in their ages, personalities and levels of prior involvement in violent activity.”

FULL COVERAGE: Boston Marathon Bombing

The Congressional report noted the older Tsarnaev had a YouTube account that featured a compilation of “jihadi videos,” and said the account was created after Tamerlan’s 2012 trip to Russia, suggesting “some degree of radicalization had taken place while he was in Russia.”

But the committee for the most part declined to go into further detail about Tamerlan’s possible radicalization in the report “out of sensitivity to the ongoing court proceedings relating to his involvement in the Boston Marathon bombing.”

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 27, was killed in a shootout with police days after the Marathon bombing. Dzhokhar, 20, has pleaded not guilty to 30 counts against him relating to the bombing, which killed three people and injured more than 260 others, and to the murder of MIT police officer Sean Collier. If convicted, Dzhokhar could face the death penalty. The trial is scheduled to begin in November.

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