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At Boston Bombing Hearing, Sides Spar Over Boat

  • VOA News

FILE - An injured Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is seen emerging from the boat in which he was hiding from police.

FILE - An injured Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is seen emerging from the boat in which he was hiding from police.

Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev sparred Monday with U.S. prosecutors over whether the boat where he hid from police, or just part of it, can be shown to jurors during his trial.

In a final hearing before the trial starts Wednesday, prosecutors told Judge George O'Toole they want to show jurors panels of the boat where they say Tsarnaev scrawled the motive for the deadly 2013 attack, which occurred at the finish line of the annual race. Authorities have said the message referred to U.S. wars in Muslim countries and that Tsarnaev wrote, "Stop killing our innocent people and we will stop."

Tsarnaev's lawyers said they want the entire boat shown to jurors so they can see how it was riddled with bullets and smeared with blood. Tsarnaev, now 21, was found hiding in the boat that was being stored in the backyard of a suburban Boston home.

The judge did not immediately rule on how the boat could be used as evidence in the case, nor on other issues raised by the lawyers.

Tsarnaev's lawyers asked the judge to limit use of what they said are "highly disturbing" autopsy photos of the three people killed by the twin pressure cooker bombs allegedly set off by Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan. Three days after the attack, Tamerlan was killed in a shootout with police as the pair tried to flee Boston.

Tsarnaev, who was in court Monday, could face the death penalty if convicted of carrying out the largest mass casualty attack in the U.S. since the 2011 terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people. His lawyers described the older brother as "the lead conspirator" in the case, but prosecutors sought to curb their use of that argument while the jury considers whether Tsarnaev is guilty. If the jury finds Tsarnaev guilty, it would then decide what sentence to impose.

On Tuesday, the lawyers are set to pick a jury to hear the case against Tsarnaev. He is charged with killing three people and injuring another 264 along the race course and then killing a policeman three days later as he and his brother tried to elude authorities.

An original pool of more than 1,350 potential jurors has been trimmed to 70 people, of whom 12 jurors and six alternates will be chosen. Judge O'Toole says the trial could last until June.

Tsarnaev's attorneys sought to have the case moved out of Boston, on the grounds that many potential jurors had a personal connection to the attacks and thus could not judge the case impartially. An appellate court rejected the request Friday.