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Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s teachers and friends testify that he was a shy and caring person

After several days of testimony from various witnesses who testified regarding how one dimensional, domineering and unpleasant Tamerlan Tsarnaev could be, the defense focused today on Dzhokhar  (Jahar) Tsarnaev. They presented testimony from his teachers in elementary and high school who described him as an intelligent, quiet and hard working student whom they regarded with respect, love and affection. He was special in a way that other students were not and their affection, despite what he did, was apparent in court for the jury to see and contemplate.

Brendan Kells is a teacher and baseball coach at Cambridge Rindge and Latin where Jahar went to high school. He teaches U.S. history, sociology and economics. He also oversees the model United Nations program that Jahar joined. The program is for academically motivated and successful students who are interested in the sorts of world issues that are debated at the UN. Jahar participated in the project hosted by Harvard University during the 2010-2011 school year.

The defense also called two female friends, Alexa Guevarra and  Tiarrah Dottin. Both girls considered him a close friend who was more respectful of girls than other boys. Both lost composure and cried several times while recalling what a true friend he was. Both described him as a special friend.

Many comments by reporters tweeting from the courtroom were rather cynical and dismissive of their testimony, but I believe the testimony credibly establishes that he was a good person before his brother took advantage of his willingness to be of service to people who mattered to him. Jahar may have lacked a solid anchor and ability to stand up to people, but he is not an evil cold blooded psychopath.

That distinction may save his life.



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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.