BOSTON – Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev say federal prosecutors are withholding evidence they consider crucial to their defense of Tsarnaev in the potential death penalty case, including the testimony of his family.
In a memo filed in court Thursday, Tsarnaev's lawyers say prosecutors have been "spotty and inconsistent" on turning over materials to the defense.
Tsarnaev's lawyers say prosecutors should turn over all of the materials they have to give a full picture of Tsarnaev as Attorney General Eric Holder decides whether to seek the death penalty and possibly for a jury "to see Mr. Tsarnaev as a complete human being who should not be sentenced to death."
In a memo filed in court last month, prosecutors said many of Tsarnaev's requests for evidence are premature because a death penalty hearing in the case is not imminent. Prosecutors in the office of U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz have not said whether they have recommended seeking the death penalty to Holder.
Tsarnaev is charged with using a weapon of mass destruction and 29 other federal charges in the April 15 bombing. Authorities say Tsarnaev and his brother Tamerlan, 26, built pressure cooker bombs and placed them near the finish line, killing three people and injured more than 260. Seventeen of the charges carry a possible death penalty.
Tamerlan died following a shootout with police several days after the bombings.
The Tsarnaevs, ethnic Chechens from Russia, moved to the United States as children. Authorities have said that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev wrote about his motivation for the bombing on the inside of a boat he was found hiding in after the shootout with police.
"The U.S. Government is killing our innocent civilians" and "We Muslims are one body, you hurt one you hurt us all," he allegedly wrote.
Tsarnaev's lawyers say prosecutors continue to withhold reports and testimony concerning Tsarnaev's family, including immigration files they say contain information important to defend Tsarnaev and to argue mitigating factors during sentencing. They say that even after getting signed releases from certain Tsarnaev family members, immigration authorities have refused to release their files, citing the ongoing investigation.
His lawyers also said they believe numerous law enforcement interviews of teachers, neighbors, classmates and friends of Tsarnaev have not been turned over by prosecutors.