Originally published on October 13, 2014, at NationofChange.org
According to a recent motion to compel discovery, the attorneys for Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev have requested the production of evidence revealing Tsarnaev knew his older brother, Tamerlan, had participated in a 2011 triple homicide in Waltham, Massachusetts. Claiming the revelations could potentially harm the open homicide investigation, prosecutors have refused to provide the evidence to the defense.
Instead of defending Tsarnaev’s possible innocence, attorneys for the surviving Boston bombing suspect seek to establish Tamerlan’s radicalization and psychological dominance over his susceptible younger brother. By proving that Tsarnaev knew of Tamerlan’s involvement in the Waltham triple murder, the defense will be able to argue that Tamerlan used fear and intimidation to coerce his little brother into committing the Boston Marathon bombings.
On September 12, 2011, the bodies of three MMA fighters were found with their throats slashed in Waltham, Massachusetts. Brendan Mess, Erik Weissman, and Raphael Teken had been murdered inside Mess’ apartment. Their bodies were covered in marijuana, and investigators discovered $5,000 in cash at the crime scene.
Although nobody has been charged with the murders, FBI agent Aaron McFarlane along with Massachusetts State Troopers Curtis Cinelli and Joel Gagne confronted Tamerlan’s friend, Ibragim Todashev, in his apartment and shot him to death during the interrogation. After eight hours of interrogation on May 22, 2013, Todashev allegedly began writing a confession implicating his and Tamerlan’s involvement in the brutal murders. After Gagne stepped outside, Agent McFarlane claimed Todashev suddenly overturned a table, grabbed a weapon, and attempted to assault them.
According to the suppressed autopsy report, Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Gary Utz determined Todashev had been shot three times in the back, twice in the left arm, once in the chest, and a bullet to the head.
Initial reports stated Todashev had been wielding a knife when Agent McFarlane was forced to shoot him 7 times. Then the knife became a metal pole. In later reports, they believed Todashev had threatened the FBI agent with a broomstick or a Banzai ceremonial sword. Law enforcement officials later recanted their stories admitting Todashev had been unarmed during the encounter. In State Attorney Jeffrey Ashton’s report, McFarlane asserted Todashev had been holding a broomstick at the time of his death.
Before joining the FBI, McFarlane had been a police officer at the Oakland Police Department in California. During that time, McFarlane had been the subject of four internal affairs investigations, two police brutality lawsuits, and pled the Fifth at a police corruption trial. McFarlane later testified under immunity for the defense of four Oakland police officers charged with excessive force, kidnapping people, planting evidence, making false arrests, and falsifying police reports. Although no one was convicted, the city fired the four officers and paid $10.9 million to settle the federal lawsuit.
According to a letter dated August 15, 2014, the government disclosed that a witness would be prepared to testify that Tsarnaev had been aware of Tamerlan’s participation in the Waltham murders. Although the prosecution has asserted that the triple homicide is not relevant to the younger Tsarnaev’s case, the government has conceded that the evidence might be pertinent if Tsarnaev had knowledge of Tamerlan’s involvement in the murders.
Along with the evidence from the Waltham murders, Tsarnaev’s attorneys have requested complete copies of heavily redacted documents supplied by the Russian government containing evidence of Tamerlan’s radicalization and his intention to engage in violent jihad when he traveled to Russia in 2012. Defense attorneys have also requested transcripts of Tsarnaev’s phone calls to his parents, reports of an examination conducted on his computer, a list of digital devices that the government may introduce as evidence, and emails obtained through a search warrant from his mother’s Yahoo account.
During a shootout with police on April 19, 2013, Tamerlan had been shot by officers then run over and dragged by a motor vehicle. Law enforcement officials accused Tsarnaev of driving over his older brother’s body while fleeing the gunfight. The following day Tsarnaev was found hiding inside a boat parked inside a backyard in Watertown, Massachusetts. Although Tsarnaev had been unarmed when surrendering to federal and local law enforcement, police had shot him multiple times including a bullet to the face.
As Tsarnaev awaits trial, his friends have been convicted of impeding the investigation into the Boston Marathon bombings. In July, a jury convicted Azamat Tazhayakov of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice for his role in removing Tsarnaev’s backpack from his dorm room. A month later, Dias Kadyrbayev pleaded guilty to impeding the investigation by tossing Tsarnaev’s backpack into a dumpster.
A third friend, Robel Phillipos, is currently on trial for lying to the FBI regarding his whereabouts on the night Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev disposed of incriminating evidence from Tsarnaev’s room before the FBI could investigate his dorm.
Jury selection for Tsarnaev’s trial is scheduled to begin on January 5, 2015. If convicted, Tsarnaev will be facing the death penalty.