BOSTON — A federal judge on Tuesday rejected a request from lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to order prosecutors to turn over evidence about his older brother's possible participation in a 2011 triple killing.
The defense was seeking details of statements from Ibragim Todashev about Tamerlan Tsarnaev's role in the unsolved killings of three men in Waltham, just west of Boston. Todashev was shot and killed at his Florida home while being questioned by the FBI and the Massachusetts State Police. Authorities have said an FBI agent shot Todashev after he charged at a state trooper, but Todashev's family has challenged that account.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's lawyers had urged Judge George O'Toole Jr. to compel prosecutors to turn over any information they have about Tamerlan Tsarnaev's involvement in the triple slaying because it could bolster a defense argument that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was influenced or coerced by his brother to participate in the deadly marathon bombing. The lawyers declined to comment after the judge's ruling.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev faces the possibility of the death penalty if he is convicted in the April 2013 bombing. Three people were killed and more than 260 were injured when two bombs exploded near the finish line of the marathon.
Prosecutors say the Tsarnaev brothers planted and detonated the bombs. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a shootout with police several days after the bombings. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was captured hiding in a boat in a suburban backyard, has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to go on trial in January.
Prosecutors said in court documents filed last year that Todashev told authorities Tamerlan Tsarnaev participated in the triple slaying. During a court hearing earlier this month, prosecutors said they had no additional information to give the defense and cited an ongoing investigation by state prosecutors into the killings.
The judge said he has reviewed FBI reports of interviews with Todashev and a video and an audio recording of an additional interview. He said only one of the FBI reports is pertinent to the defense request, but he agreed with prosecutors that it does not have to be turned over to the defense.
The judge said disclosure of the report "risks revealing facts seemingly innocuous on their face, such as times of day or sequences of events, revelation of which would have a real potential to interfere with the ongoing state investigation."
He said the report "does not materially advance the theory" that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was influenced by his brother "beyond what is already available to the defense from discovery and other sources."
He said it would be a different matter if Todashev were available as a potential witness.
"Without that possibility, the utility of the report to the defense in building a mitigation case is very low at best," the judge wrote in his ruling.
He also denied a defense request to hold a hearing into possible law enforcement leaks to the media.