In the Boston Marathon bombing trial yesterday, the prosecution introduced Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s note that he wrote on the interior wall of the trailered boat in which he was hiding. The note said in pertinent part,


The U.S. government is killing our innocent civilians . . . I can’t stand to see such evil go unpunished . . . We Muslims are one body, you hurt one you hurt us all . . . Now I don’t like killing innocent people. It is forbidden in Islam but due to said (unintelligible) it is allowed . . . Stop killing our innocent people and we will stop.


Tsarnaev appears to have written the note in anticipation of death before law enforcement surrounded the boat and began shooting. Some parts of it were obscured by bullet holes and blood. It is an explanation for why he and Tamerlan built and detonated the two IEDs.

The evidence introduced so far leaves little doubt that Dzhokhar was a willing participant in the bombing and for this reason I think Judy Clarke wisely decided to concede in her opening statement that Dzhokhar committed the crimes with which he is charged.

To have a reasonable chance of persuading at least one juror that he does not deserve the death penalty, Dzhokhar is going to have to express sorrow and regret for what he did. I imagine Judy Clarke has been telling him this for months.

Based on reports by people in the media who have been attending the trial, Dzhokhar has exhibited little interest in the proceedings. They describe him as detached and unwilli9ng to look at the witnesses and the jury. This is not helpful and needs to change.

He has a right to allocution, so he can speak to the jury during the penalty phase without being cross examined.

Remains to be seen whether he will own what he did and ask for mercy.



Frederick Leatherman

Frederick Leatherman

I am a former law professor and felony criminal defense lawyer who practiced in state and federal courts for 30 years specializing in death penalty cases, forensics, and drug cases.

I taught criminal law, criminal procedure, law and forensics, and trial advocacy for three years after retiring from my law practice.

I also co-founded Innocence Project Northwest (IPNW) at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle and recruited 40 lawyers who agreed to work pro bono, assisted by law students, representing 17 innocent men and women wrongfully convicted of sexually abusing their children in the notorious Wenatchee Sex Ring witch-hunt prosecutions during the mid 90s. All 17 were freed from imprisonment.