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Accused Boston bomber scrawled messages expecting death: lawyers

Members of the FBI Evidence Recovery Team inspect the boat where Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was hiding at 67 Franklin
Members of the FBI Evidence Recovery Team inspect the boat where Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was hiding at 67 Franklin

BOSTON (Reuters) - The messages that accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev wrote on the inside walls of the boat he hid in during a police manhunt four days after the attack were intended to explain his actions should he die, his lawyers argued.

The accused bomber, who faces the possibility of execution if convicted on charges tied to the April 15 attack that killed three people and injured 264, did not intend to incite further violence with messages including "the U.S. government is killing our innocent civilians" and "I can't stand to see such evil go unpunished," defense attorneys said in court papers filed late on Monday.

"On their face, Mr. Tsarnaev's alleged words simply state the motive for his actions, a declaration in anticipation of his own death. There is no express call for others to take up arms," the 20-year-old defendant's lawyers said.

Prosecutors have argued that Tsarnaev poses both a safety risk to prison officials and that his words could inspire others to plan attacks similar to the Boston Marathon incident, where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his other brother, Tamerlan, planted a pair of homemade pressure-cooker bombs at the crowded finish line.

"While the government may view these words as an implied 'clarion call' to other would-be radicals ... it was law enforcement that originally leaked existence of the alleged boat writings to the press and it is the government that continues to broadcast the 'clarion' by repeating, emphasizing, and attributing inspirational significance to these words," the filing said.

A June filing by prosecutors, which charged Tsarnaev with the April 15 bombing and the murder of a university police officer three days later, provided detail on the messages the ethnic Chechen, who had lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, wrote as he hid in a boat dry-docked in Watertown, Massachusetts.

The notes also included "we Muslims are one body, you hurt one you hurt us all" and "stop killing our innocent people and we will stop."

Tamerlan Tsarnaev died after a late night gun battle with police on April 18, as the two brothers were preparing to flee the city. Dzhokhar escaped that fight and hid in the boat in Watertown, prompting a day-long lockdown of most of the Boston area.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Andrew Hay)

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