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Tsarnaev: The noose tightens

http://youtu.be/3yxAOZz8oLc

The prosecution ended the week on a high note yesterday with damning testimony from an FBI Crime Lab computer expert who told the jury what he found when he examined the hard drive in Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s laptop computer.  CBS News reports,

The defense admitted on day one Dzhokhar Tsarnaev “did it.” But they’ve portrayed him as a typical, fun-loving college student led astray by an overbearing brother.

Today, prosecutors did their best to shatter that image.

They showed the jury links to dozens of hate-filled speeches of radical cleric Anwar al Awlaki found on Tsarnaev’s laptop.

FBI computer expert Kevin Swindon explained how he also discovered downloaded articles, YouTube clips and music about Jihad dating as far back as 2010.

The laptop contained every issue of al Qaeda’s magazine, Inspire. One featured an article titled “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom.”

Earlier, jurors saw just what kinds of damage a homemade bomb can do. They were shown a picture of a pressure cooker embedded in the side of a car. Prosecutors say it was thrown at police in a standoff four days after the marathon bombing.

Bomb fragments were found on lawns, on roofs, and sticking out of the sides of houses.

And a modified toy remote control found in the stolen Mercedes the brothers used to trigger the pressure cooker bomb.

WBUR also reports,

Massachusetts State Police Trooper Robert McCarthy testified about the two unexploded pipe bombs recovered from the scene on Laurel Street in Watertown after the shootout between the Tsarnaev brothers and police.

The two bombs were constructed using metal piping filled with gunpowder and BB’s and a green hobby fuse used to activate them. Both bombs were shown to jurors in person.

The pipe bombs were made out of a metal elbow pipe two inches in diameter. Metal BBs were epoxied to the inside wall of the pipe. The pipe was then packed with black gunpowder and the ends were sealed. Finally, a  green hobby fuse was inserted into a hole that had been drilled in the elbow. These improvised explosive devices (IEDs)  are an improvement over pipe bombs because they resemble a grenade that can be thrown more accurately than a pipe bomb and, unlike a pipe bomb that can roll away from a target before it detonates, the elbow bomb is more likely to stick where it lands and detonate closer to the target. This innovation required some thought and could only have been motivated by a desire to increase the number of people killed and injured.

The acquisition of materials and the construction of the pressure-cooker bombs and improvised grenades took considerable time, thought and effort. It’s becoming apparent that the brothers did not intend to stop with the Boston Marathon bombing. Recall that Tamerlan told Dun Meng that they intended to drive the Mercedes to New York City and they transferred their IEDs from Dzhokhar’s green Honda to the back of the Mercedes shortly after the carjacking.

Jurors are probably beginning to realize that the brothers must have known that they would eventually be killed. The propaganda discovered on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s computer suggests that they believed they would be admitted to everlasting paradise as martyrs in the cause of jihad. Tamerlan’s headlong rush into a hail of bullets in Watertown suggests that he believed that he was embracing paradise.

Although Tamerlan appears to have been the leader (he had the 9mm Ruger that Dzhokhar obtained under false pretenses from Stephen Silva, he carjacked Dun Meng and his Mercedes SUV and told him that he killed the MIT cop), no evidence has been introduced that Dzhokhar was a reluctant, much less unwilling, participant in the bombings. Instead, the information on his computer indicates his radicalization and interest in jihad began in 2010. However, unlike Tamerlan who embraced death to get to paradise, Dzhokhar surrendered to arrest and prosecution. Whether Judy Clarke and David Bruck can save his life remains to be seen.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. As a former death penalty lawyer, I believe Dzhokhar has to decide whether to own what he did, reject jihad and plead for mercy. I do not believe he has made that decision. His surrender and the explanation that he wrote in pencil on the boat wall for why he and Tamerlan did what they did shows a lack of resolve in the face of death and a desire to justify their behavior.  I suspect he wrote that explanation to justify what he did to himself.

A just and loving God would never sanction killing innocents. I believe Dzhokhar knew that at some level. Tamerlan’s death may have freed him to think on his own. He has a long way to go to reclaim his soul and his humanity. He must walk that difficult path alone.

Fortunately, he has Judy Clarke and David Bruck, two loving and non-judgmental souls committed to showing him and others the way out of the darkness and into the light. They will be there standing beside him when the jury decides whether he lives or dies.

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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.

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