Accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is asking a federal judge to clamp down on “self-appointed supporters” protesting on his behalf outside a Boston courthouse, arguing that their “inflammatory accusations” could hurt his right to a fair trial.
In a court filing Monday, Tsarnaev’s defense team sought to distance themselves from the demonstrators, arguing they could have a “deleterious and prejudicial impact” on his trial, which is set to begin Jan. 5. The supporters, his attorneys wrote, “advocate various conspiracy theories concerning the marathon bombing, including that the resulting deaths and injuries have somehow been faked as part of a government plot.”
Tsarnaev’s lawyers asked federal Judge George O’Toole, who is overseeing the case, to direct the U.S. Marshals Service to move the demonstrators away from the courthouse, because their presence implies that Tsarnaev agrees with them.
“Survivors, jurors, witnesses and members of the public must be able to attend court without being assaulted by inflammatory accusations from any source,” Tsarnaev’s attorneys wrote. “If they cannot, the fairness of the defendant’s trial is likely to be gravely harmed, in part because of the natural but false inference that the defendant and his counsel agree with the outrageous conspiracy theories that are being so vociferously advanced by demonstrators claiming to be the defendant’s ‘supporters.’”
The Tsarnaev team specifically cited a clash last week between demonstrators and bombing survivor Marc Fucarile, who lost his right leg in the attacks. Responding to a Tsarnaev supporter who claimed that the case against the accused bomber was “trickery,” Fucarile removed his prosthetic leg and waved it, commenting, “That’s trickery?”
In their motion, Tsarnaev's attorneys acknowledged the protesters’ rights to free speech, “no matter how outrageous.” But they pressed for limits on the demonstrators, arguing that their “continuing presence in the immediate vicinity of the courthouse entryways ... poses a grave threat” to Tsarnaev’s right to a fair trial.
“The defendant and his attorneys are powerless to protect the fairness of his trial from the destructive activities of these demonstrators,” the accused bomber's attorneys wrote.
Tsarnaev, 21, faces the death penalty for his role in the twin bombings near the finish line of the April 2013 Boston Marathon, which killed three people and injured nearly 300. He is also accused, along with his late brother, Tamerlan, of shooting and killing a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer while on the run from police. Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty in the case.
On Monday, his attorneys also renewed their push to move Tsarnaev’s trial out of Boston, arguing that their client cannot receive a fair trial in the city.