The Slatest

Tsarnaev Files “Placeholder” Motion for Appeal Expected to Argue for Trial Outside Boston

Defense attorney Judy Clarke at Tsarnaev’s trial in Boston.

Scott Eisen/Getty

Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s defense team has filed a “placeholder” appeal of his conviction and death sentence. From the AP:

Tsarnaev’s lawyers filed a preliminary motion for a new trial Monday for his conviction and death sentence. The motion did not contain any details on what grounds they plan to argue, saying only that a new trial is “required in the interests of justice.”

You can read this piece for a summary of what arguments Tsarnaev might make in pursuing a new trial. Among them:

  • He shouldn’t have been tried in Boston because the jury pool was biased against him
  • Certain victims who had not suffered capital crimes should not have been allowed to testify during the sentencing phase of his trial
  • He wasn’t given access to information that the government deemed too sensitive to share

It seems unlikely that Tsarnaev, if given another trial, would argue that he was not guilty—both he and his attorneys admitted during his Boston trial that he had planned and carried out the bombing with his brother Tamerlan. (Whether he would even be allowed to claim innocence after admitting guilt is a tricky question that I’ve put to a law professor; I’ll update this post if she writes back.) Tsarnaev’s team did, however, present a case that he should not be put to death, and a life sentence is presumed to be his goal in the appeals process. (One of Tsarnaev’s lead attorneys, Judy Clarke, is well-known for defending infamous clients, and none of the high-profile defendants who she has represented—including South Carolina child-killer Susan Smith, the Unabomber, and Olympic bomber Eric Rudolph—have been executed.)