Defending Dzhokhar Tsarnaev: The attorneys for Timothy McVeigh and the D.C. sniper talk strategy
1. Defending Dzhokhar Tsarnaev: The attorneys for Timothy
McVeigh and the D.C. sniper talk strategy
Sources tell CBS News, 19-year-old bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is telling investigators his
older brother's radical Islamist views drove the marathon attacks and that they were not connected
to a terrorist organization. Randall Pinkston reports. Some video courtesy of Channel 4 News. CBS
19-year-old bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
(CBS) - It was about 9:30 at night and attorney Stephen Jones was at home when he got the call
asking if he would be willing to defend Oklahoma City bombing suspect Timothy McVeigh. Jones was
honored to be chosen for such a high profile case, but said he needed a day to talk it over with his
PICTURES: Boston bombing victimsPICTURES: Boston Marathon bombing suspects
"I'd never been involved in a case where my wife, my children, my home, my office might be at risk,"
remembers Jones. "But lawyers have a duty to defend unpopular clients."
And so Jones accepted - but not without arranging security for his car, his home and his office.
"It was a hostile environment," Jones told CBS News' Crimesider.
The attorneys who represent Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old charged with using a weapon of
mass destruction to kill three people and wound more than 170 at the Boston Marathon on April 15,
will likely face a similarly hostile environment. Many, includingÂ elected officials, have
advocatedÂ stripping the suspect of his rights as a U.S. citizen and trying him in a military tribunal
as an enemy combatant.
But on Monday, the White House announced that Tsarnaev will be tried in federal civilian court, and
when the hospitalized suspect was askedÂ if he could afford an attorney to represent him, he said
That didn't surprise Jones, who estimates that defending the accused bomber will likely cost "several
2. In Oklahoma City, the judge called Jones to take over the case because the federal defender's office
had actually been damaged in the bombing, turning the attorneys themselves into victims of the
crime allegedly committed by the man they were being asked to defend. According to the Associated
Press, Tsarnaev will be represented by federal public defenders. Three attorneys from the
Massachusetts office were present when he was charged.
Jonathan Sheldon, the attorney who represented D.C. sniper John Allen Muhammad, told Crimesider
that federal defenders are "highly skilled" attorneys who could be making many times their salary at
a private firm.
And although Tsarnaev may already be considered guilty in the court of public opinion, Sheldon and
Jones both say that the outcome of a trial is no foregone conclusion. Sheldon points to the Madrid
train bombings, where, based on fingerprints allegedly found at the scene, an Oregon-based attorney
named Brandon Mayfield was initially named as a suspect in the terrorist attack that killed nearly
200 people. But the fingerprints had been misidentified. And after two weeks behind bars, Mayfield
was released andÂ later receivedÂ $2 million and an apology from the FBI. He told reporters he
believes he was targeted because he was Muslim.
"Even though it may appear evidence of guilt is overwhelming, that doesn't excuse defense lawyers
from investigating and challenging that evidence," says Jones.
And, says Jones, in the Tsarnaev case, there appears to be clear evidence that others - including
Tsarnaev's now-deceased older brother Tamerlan - were involved in the bombing and its aftermath.
"It looks likely this guy was involved - but how involved?" says Sheldon. To find that out, the
attorneys may well need to travel to Dagestan, where the brothers' parents lived, and parts of
Russian where Tamerlan reportedly visited in 2012.
"His attorneys will have to keep an open mind and investigate every angle," says Sheldon.
One possible outcome is a plea deal, which Jones says McVeigh initially agreed to allow him to enter
into, but then changed his mind. Jones says that because Tsarnaev may have "a treasure trove" of
information, the government might be willing to make a deal - perhaps even take the death penalty
off the table - if he cooperates.
Barring that, when it comes to trial strategy, Jones says that the attorneys will start with procedural
steps. First Tsarnaev's defense team may move for a change of venue. McVeigh was ultimately tried
in Colorado, and Muhammad in Virginia Beach. Sheldon says that because so many people in and
around Boston could be considered "victims" - either by being at or near the marathon, or by being
locked down for an entire day as authorities searched for Tsarnaev - attorneys for the defendant may
argue that potential jurors could struggle with impartiality.
Second, Jones says, the attorneys may ask for money and time to investigate.
"We're going to find out much more than we know now" about the Tsarnaev brothers, says Sheldon.
And some of that information - whether it is based on witness statements, mental health records, or
even the circumstances of his upbringing - may be mitigating.
"His attorneys may argue diminished capacity, or duress," says Jones.Â
Much has been reported in the days since the alleged bombers were identified about the relationship