Tsarnaev Can See Victims' Autopsy Photos, Possibly Even Have Unsupervised Family Visits, Judge Rules
Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's case is moving closer to trial, and on Wednesday the judge in the case made a couple of rulings in the defense team's favor. U.S. District Judge George O'Toole Jr. said Tsarnaev's lawyers could show him photos of the victims' autopsies if they found it appropriate, and also said Tsarnaev may be able to have unsupervised visits with his family in the future. But the judge declined to dismiss some of the charges against Tsarnaev, which his defense argues are duplicative. Tsarnaev is facing the death penalty in the case.
The defense is planning to argue that Tsarnaev was in thrall to his older brother, Tamerlan, who was killed in a shootout with police officers following the bombings at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon, which killed three and injured hundreds more. The younger Tsarnaev was later found hiding out in a boat after a manhunt that shut down the entire city of Boston.
Right now, his visits with family are being supervised by an FBI agent. Tsarnaev's relationship with his brother is one reason the defense is asking the judge to give him a little more space during visits, according to defense attorney David Bruck.
This case is very much a story about a family and the relationships between them.
O'Toole said he didn't think the supervised prison visits were a safety issue, but didn't make a firm ruling in order to allow the Federal Bureau of Prisons to have a say in his decision.
To help make the argument that Tsarnaev was following his late older brother's orders, the defense also asked that evidence be admitted relating to Tamerlan Tsarnaev's potential role in a 2011 triple homicide. The judge said he would think about it.
Prosecutors had argued, unusually, that Tsarnaev should be barred from viewing photos of the bombing victims' autopsies because it would cause emotional harm to the victims' families. Judge O'Toole rejected that argument on Wednesday. But he sided with the prosecutors on a defense motion to dismiss some of the charges against Tsarnaev.
Tsarnaev faces 30 charges in court, 17 of which carry the death penalty. He faces state charges in the death of Sean Collier, an MIT police officer killed during the manhunt for the Tsarnaev brothers. The trial is set to start in November.