News Column

Star Attorney Joining Bombing Suspect's Team

May 1, 2013

The addition of a renowned death penalty lawyer to the defense of marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is a coup for his growing team of lawyers and a strong signal they could try to strike a plea deal that would spare the accused teen terrorist his life, legal experts say.

With San Diego attorney Judy Clarke now in the fold, Tsarnaev's defense gained a nationally recognized defender who has successfully steered some of America's most hated criminals from certain death, including "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski, Tucson, Ariz., shooter Jared Loughner and Olympic bomber Eric Rudolph.

"That is her M.O. -- negotiating with the federal prosecutors and establishing a connection with her clients so that they are open and willing to plead guilty knowing that they are facing life in prison," said Tamar R. Birckhead, who defended "shoe bomber" Richard Reid.

While cautioning it's far too early to tell whether prosecutors will even seek the death penalty, Clarke's appointment strengthens the possibility an agreement could be struck guaranteeing Tsarnaev a life sentence without parole, Birckhead said.

"It seems like there's a good possibility that's how things will be resolved," she said.

Efforts to reach Clarke were unsuccessful. But she recounted in an address at a California legal conference on Friday advice she once received: "The first step to losing a capital case is picking a jury."

"She is a role model for anyone who ever has had any thoughts about being a defense lawyer," Norman Reimer, executive director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, told the Herald.

Clarke's addition, alongside Miriam Conrad, the head of the Boston federal defenders office, came amid a series of developments in the widening probe, which yesterday brought authorities back to Rhode Island.

The FBI is investigating female DNA that was found on fragments from at least one of the bombs that exploded at the marathon, according to news reports, which stated that FBI agents removed an evidence bag marked DNA from the North Kingston home of slain suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev's wife.

FBI spokesman Jason Pack declined to discuss "specific aspects" of the visit. Russell's attorneys have said she was working with investigators. They did not return calls yesterday.

In Massachusetts, authorities said they know now what killed Tamerlan, but refused to publicly reveal his cause of death because his body had yet to be claimed.

Source: (c)2013 the Boston Herald Distributed by MCT Information Services

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