Boston bombings notebook

Statesman wire servicesApril 23, 2013 

Uphill battle for defense of bomb suspect

There are photos of the suspect at the bomb scene, video footage of him dropping a knapsack at the site of one of the blasts and perhaps most incriminating could be the written words of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev himself during questioning in a Boston hospital. A case with evidence like this may be the toughest challenge a lawyer can face: defending someone accused of an act of terror so horrific a nation calls for swift, severe punishment.

Some lawyers say that in this case, the surveillance evidence and a police shootout make a “he wasn’t there” innocence claim untenable — and keeping Tsarnaev out of the execution chamber may itself be a triumph.

“The reality is you just try to save his life,” said Thomas A. Durkin, a Chicago lawyer who has defended several terrorism suspects, including Ramzi bin al Shibh, one of the alleged plotters in the 9/11 attacks now being held in Guantanamo.

Durkin said there are several steps the defense can take: Hire top-notch investigators, look for possible psychiatric issues or brain damage, and scour for potential vulnerabilities in how the government collected evidence. But, he said, the biggest hurdles for lawyers, clearly, are the bombings and the ensuing horror.

Funerals held for young bomb victim, slain officer

Funerals were held Tuesday for the 8-year-old boy killed in the Boston Marathon bombing and the college police officer authorities say was shot by the suspects.

A private funeral Mass was held in the morning for young Martin Richard, followed by his burial, a family statement said. Only immediate family members attended. A funeral also was held for Massachusetts Institute of Technology police Officer Sean Collier, fatally shot three days after the bombing.

"The outpouring of love and support over the last week has been tremendous," the Richards' statement said. "This has been the most difficult week of our lives and we appreciate that our friends and family have given us space to grieve and heal."

The family, from Boston's Dorchester neighborhood, said it would hold a public memorial service in the coming weeks to celebrate Martin's life.

On Wednesday, MIT will hold a memorial service for Collier. Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to attend.

Fund for victims raises $20 million so far

In the eight days since a pair of explosions tore through the crowd at the storied Boston Marathon, $20 million has been donated to help the wounded and the families of the dead, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino announced Tuesday.

The biggest donation was $1 million, Menino said, and the smallest came from "young people doing lemonade stands, $5, $10, it runs the gamut." In all, One Fund Boston has received 50,000 donations from around the world.

Poll: Most Americans see terrorist acts as ’part of life’

About three-quarters of those surveyed are resigned to it and many doubt the government can do much more to prevent them.

The share of Americans who see terrorist acts as “part of life” has stayed high since shortly after the Sept. 11, attacks. But the figure had declined a bit in recent years, with people younger than 30 notably less likely to expect terrorist acts. Now, younger people have joined their elders in saying that some terrorist actions can be expected. The shift among the young has pushed the overall percentage of those who feel that way back to its previous high point.

The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press survey, taken Thursday through Sunday, showed that 60 percent of Americans say they think the government actions taken since Sept. 11, 2001, have made the country safer; 35 percent disagreed.

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