The judge who will preside over the trial of Boston Marathon bombing defendant Dzhokhar Tsarnaev heard arguments Wednesday about how much information the government must give defense lawyers before proceedings begin in less than two months.
The status conference Wednesday in Boston federal court largely focused on recent court filings concerning a grisly 2011 triple killing in which Tsarnaev's older brother, Tamerlan, allegedly had a role. The older Tsarnaev was fatally wounded in a shootout with cops last April after prosecutors say he and his brother detonated twin bombs at the Boston Marathon.
Prosecutors say the extent of their knowledge goes only so far as an alleged confession by Ibragim Todashev, a friend of the older Tsarnaev. But federal prosecutors "have no idea if Todashev was telling the truth," said Justice Department lawyer William Weinrab.
Todashev was fatally shot two months after the Boston bombing by an FBI agent — just as he was about to sign a confession, investigators say. Investigators say Todashev abruptly changed his mind and lunged at the agent, wielding a pole like a javelin. The agent shot the Chechen man in self-defense, officials have said.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's lawyer William Fick told Judge George O'Toole Jr. that any evidence of Tamerlan's involvement in the triple slaying would be "extremely relevant." Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's lawyers have made it clear in various court filings that they will argue that their client, who has pleaded not guilty, was manipulated by his older brother. "I really can't overstate the potential importance of this information," Fick told the judge Wednesday.
The judge ordered the defense Wednesday to hand over its witness list to prosecutors by Dec. 29, according to The Associated Press. The ruling was a setback for the defense, which had tried to keep their witness list private before the trial gets underway. Jury selection begins Jan. 5 and the trial is expected to list three months.
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— Daniel Arkin and The Associated Press contributed to this report.