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Boston bomber suspect may blame brother

  • Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings. Tsarnaev, who faces a potential death penalty, is fighting to get access to investigative records that implicate his dead older brother in a triple slaying in 2011. In a filing this week in federal court, prosecutors say they have alerted Dzhokhar Tsarnaev that a friend alleges that Tsarnaev's older brother, Tamerlan, participated in the killings. The friend, Ibragim Todashev was later shot to death in Florida while being questioned by authorities.  The younger Tsarnaev's lawyers have argued that evidence about his brother's involvement in the triple killings provides "mitigating information" that is critical to his defense. AP photo

    Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings. Tsarnaev, who faces a potential death penalty, is fighting to get access to investigative records that implicate his dead older brother in a triple slaying in 2011. In a filing this week in federal court, prosecutors say they have alerted Dzhokhar Tsarnaev that a friend alleges that Tsarnaev's older brother, Tamerlan, participated in the killings. The friend, Ibragim Todashev was later shot to death in Florida while being questioned by authorities. The younger Tsarnaev's lawyers have argued that evidence about his brother's involvement in the triple killings provides "mitigating information" that is critical to his defense. AP photo

  • Tamerlan Tsarnaev smiles after accepting the trophy for winning the 2010 New England Golden Gloves Championship in Lowell. Prosecutors in the case against Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Tamerlan's brother, say a man shot to death during questioning by an agent in Florida told investigators that Tamerlan had been involved in a triple homicide. AP Photo/The Lowell Sun, Julia Malakie File

    Tamerlan Tsarnaev smiles after accepting the trophy for winning the 2010 New England Golden Gloves Championship in Lowell. Prosecutors in the case against Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Tamerlan's brother, say a man shot to death during questioning by an agent in Florida told investigators that Tamerlan had been involved in a triple homicide. AP Photo/The Lowell Sun, Julia Malakie File

  • Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings. Tsarnaev, who faces a potential death penalty, is fighting to get access to investigative records that implicate his dead older brother in a triple slaying in 2011. In a filing this week in federal court, prosecutors say they have alerted Dzhokhar Tsarnaev that a friend alleges that Tsarnaev's older brother, Tamerlan, participated in the killings. The friend, Ibragim Todashev was later shot to death in Florida while being questioned by authorities.  The younger Tsarnaev's lawyers have argued that evidence about his brother's involvement in the triple killings provides "mitigating information" that is critical to his defense. AP photo
  • Tamerlan Tsarnaev smiles after accepting the trophy for winning the 2010 New England Golden Gloves Championship in Lowell. Prosecutors in the case against Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Tamerlan's brother, say a man shot to death during questioning by an agent in Florida told investigators that Tamerlan had been involved in a triple homicide. AP Photo/The Lowell Sun, Julia Malakie File

BOSTON — Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s lawyers may try to save him from the death penalty in the Boston Marathon bombing by arguing he fell under the murderous influence of his older brother, legal experts say.

The outlines of a possible defense came into focus this week when it was learned that Tsarnaev’s attorneys are trying to get access to investigative records implicating the now-dead brother in a grisly triple slaying committed in 2011.

The younger Tsarnaev’s lawyers argued in court papers that any evidence of Tamerlan’s involvement is “mitigating information” that is critical as they prepare Dzhokhar’s defense. They asked a judge to force prosecutors to turn over the records.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 20, faces 30 federal charges, including using a weapon of mass destruction, in the twin bombings April 15 that killed three people and injured more than 260. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, died in a gunbattle with police days later.

The government is still deciding whether to pursue the death penalty for the attack, which investigators say was retaliation for the U.S. wars in Muslim lands.

Miriam Conrad, Tsarnaev’s public defender, had no comment.

Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said the defense may be trying to show that the older brother was the guiding force.

“If I was a defense attorney and was seeking perhaps to draw attention to the influence the older brother had in planning the bombing, I would use his involvement in other crimes to show that he was likely the main perpetrator in the Boston bombing,” Dieter said.

“I would take the position that my client, the younger brother, was strongly influenced by his older brother, and even if he is culpable, the death penalty is too extreme in this case.”

Similarly, Aitan D. Goelman, who was part of the legal team that prosecuted Oklahoma City bombing figures Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, said the defense may be looking to minimize the younger brother’s role in the bombing.

“I think the mostly likely reason is that if they are arguing some kind of mitigation theory that the older brother was a monster and the younger brother was under his sway or intimidated or dominated by him,” he said.

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