BOSTON (AP) — Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are complaining for a third time about media leaks they say are jeopardizing his right to a fair trial.
In a court filing Friday, Tsarnaev’s lawyers cite a recent piece in Newsweek magazine containing statements from unnamed law enforcement sources. They say the article “casts the entire Tsarnaev family in an extremely negative light” and “suggests that others were somehow involved.”
Tsarnaev’s lawyers want U.S. District Judge George O’Toole Jr. to hold a hearing and call supervising law enforcement officers to testify about their efforts to stop unauthorized communications with the news media.
O’Toole has rejected two earlier defense requests for a hearing, but he has instructed prosecutors to warn law enforcement against disclosing information about the case to the media. Prosecutors sent a letter to all law enforcement agencies involved, telling them of the judge’s concerns.
Tsarnaev’s trial is scheduled to begin in January. Prosecutors say Tsarnaev and his brother, Tamerlan, planted two pressure-cooker bombs near the finish line of the April 15, 2013, marathon, killing three people and injuring more than 260. Tamerlan Tsarnaev died following a shootout with police three days after the bombings.
Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty to 30 federal charges and could face the death penalty if convicted.
In a separate filing Friday, Tsarnaev’s lawyers said they do not believe they are required to file a list of defense witnesses before Tsarnaev’s trial. They said they are worried that once the defense witness names are turned over to prosecutors, the witnesses would decide not to testify, “given the virtual certainty that the FBI will descend on each of the non-expert witnesses to interview them.”
His lawyers said they have encountered “unusual and severe obstacles” in trying to get witnesses who knew Tsarnaev and his family to testify.
“A substantial part of these difficulties stems from the aggressive, persistent and pervasive law enforcement presence in the lives of many potential defense witnesses, and the atmosphere of fear and intimidation that has necessarily followed,” Tsarnaev’s lawyers wrote.
“For this reason, the defense does not agree to a witness disclosure requirement that is not mandated by statute or rule,” Tsarnaev’s lawyers argued in the filing.
A spokeswoman for prosecutors declined to comment.