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Lawyers Say Tsarnaev Was Only Joking in Security Remark to Sister

<p>Lawyers for the accused bomber have battled with the government over security restrictions.</p>
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Suspect #2 in the Boston Marathon bombing, in a photo released at April 19, 2013 by the FBI. FBI

Lawyers for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving Boston Marathon bombing suspect, say he was only joking when he made a remark to his sister that prosecutors have called damaging to his defense.

The defense has been arguing with the federal government over FBI monitoring of meetings in prison between Tsarnaev and his sisters and between Tsarnaev and his lawyers.

Lawyers for Tsarnaev, 20, said in a court filing Wednesday that he was trying to put his sister at ease when she visited him in prison in Massachusetts and he “made a comment that might be characterized as jocular or gently mocking” toward certain security restrictions.

The remark was not specified. Tsarnaev’s lawyers said that government security restrictions prevented them from repeating it in public.

The defense essentially accused the government of a legal trap: If Tsarnaev is “lighthearted” when his sisters visit, the government will use it as evidence that he lacks remorse, and if he is “impassive or subdued,” the government will say he is cold-hearted and deserves to die.

Tsarnaev's trial is set for Nov. 3. He is accused of carrying out the bombings, which killed three people and injured more than 260 last April, with his brother, Tamerlan, who was killed in a firefight with authorities.

— Erin McClam