Now that accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has a high-profile defense attorney, “there’s not going to be a jihadi-type defense,” Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz tells Newsmax TV in an exclusive interview.
It’s not going to be ‘I did it. I’m proud of it. I want to die. I’m a martyr, please execute me,” Dershowitz said on Tuesday. “Her client — unlike, perhaps, his older brother — wants to live.”
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Instead, prominent criminal lawyer Judy Clarke will probably contend that Tsarnaev is only “19 years old. His older brother influenced him. He really wasn’t an ideologue. He’s cooperated with the authorities. He didn’t insist on having a lawyer in the beginning until he was given his Miranda warnings,” Dershowitz predicts.
“All of these militate in favor of perhaps not seeking the death penalty, or helping to get a deal in which the government doesn’t ask for the death penalty — or if it asks for it, where the jury, or at least one juror, might decide against imposing the death penalty.”
On Monday NBC reported that prosecutors and lawyers for Tsarnaev had begun "very early discussions" about a possible deal in which he could avoid the death penalty in return for a full accounting to the FBI of the April 15 attack.
Clarke, who was also named to Tsarnaev’s defense team on Monday, has represented defendants in some of the most high-profile death penalty cases in recent years. Among those were Jared Loughner, who pleaded guilty last year to the Arizona shooting rampage that severely wounded then U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Loughner was spared the death penalty and instead was sentenced in November to seven consecutive life terms plus 140 years in prison without the possibility of parole.
“She’s a death-penalty lawyer,” Dershowitz says of the San Diego-based Clarke. “She’s not an expert at winning contested cases. This tells us there’s probably not going to be a real defense to the crime itself — and what we’re going to hear a lot about is mitigation of punishment.”
Meanwhile, Tsarnaev, a naturalized U.S. citizen who was captured on April 19 after an intense manhunt, has been recovering from bullet wounds at a prison medical center outside Boston.
He has been charged with federal terrorism offenses, including using a weapon of mass destruction in connection with the Boston Marathon bombings two weeks ago that killed three and injured 264 — a charge that could carry the death penalty.
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With Clarke’s addition to the defense team — and Massachusetts being generally opposed to the death penalty — the likelihood that Tsarnaev will be sentenced to death is far from certain, Dershowitz tells Newsmax.
“The crime itself calls for the most severe penalty. The question is does the criminal? If it was his brother, it would be a clearer case. He will be tried probably in either Boston or another Massachusetts city. Massachusetts is a state that is against the death penalty — and many Bostonians have doubts about the death penalty.
“Anybody who can’t conscientiously apply the death penalty in any case is excluded from the jury, but that doesn’t exclude people who have skepticism about the death penalty or who want to consider whether it applies in a particular case,” he says. “You might get a somewhat more sympathetic jury pool than you would in some other parts of the country.”
Clarke is being paid at taxpayers’ expense — and that’s the price of death-penalty cases, Dershowitz says.
“It’s much, much less to subject people to life in prison. If you were facing only life in prison — and he gets some obscure lawyer who would put on a pro-forma defense — he’d be convicted, and he’d spend the rest of his life in obscurity in some southern Indiana federal prison. Nobody would ever hear from him again.
“This way, he gets one of the best lawyers in the country. He gets a team of lawyers. He gets all kinds of special privileges of somebody facing the death penalty: more challenges to the jury, more time to present and to prepare his case.
“Imposing the death penalty is not cost-free in the United States,” Dershowitz adds. “It’s very, very expensive.”
Dershowitz: Terror Suspect 'Wants to Live'
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