The defense team representing Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev got a major boost on Monday with the addition of a prominent anti-death penalty lawyer who has managed to get life sentences for several high-profile clients, including the man known as the Unabomber and the gunman in the rampage that injured a former US congresswoman.
Tsarnaev has been charged with using a weapon of mass destruction during the April 15 marathon, where three people were killed and more than 260 injured when two bombs exploded near the finish line.
A judge on Monday approved the appointment of death penalty expert Judy Clarke to defend 19-year-old Tsarnaev. However, Judge Marianne Bowler denied a request from Tsarnaev’s public defender, Miriam Conrad, to appoint a second death penalty lawyer, David Bruck, a professor at Washington and Lee University School of Law.
Tsarnaev’s lawyers could renew their motion to appoint another death penalty expert if he is indicted, Bowler said.
Clarke’s clients have included Ted Kaczynski, dubbed the Unabomber; Susan Smith, a woman who famously drowned her two children; Atlanta Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph; and most recently, Jared Loughner, who shot former Arizona representative Gabrielle Giffords in the head. All received life sentences instead of the death penalty.
Clarke has rarely spoken publicly about her work and did not return a call seeking comment on Monday. However, at a speech on Friday at a legal conference in Los Angeles, she talked about how she had been “sucked into the black hole, the vortex” of death penalty cases 18 years ago when she represented Smith.
“I got a dose of understanding human behavior, and I learned what the death penalty does to us,” she said. “I don’t think it’s a secret that I oppose the death penalty.”
Bruck has directed Washington and Lee University’s death penalty defense clinic, the Virginia Capital Case Clearinghouse, since 2004.
In other developments in the Boston case, FBI agents visited the home of the in-laws of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and carried away several bags. The brother was killed in a gunbattle with police.
CNN reported that at least one bag was labeled DNA samples.
FBI spokesman Jason Pack confirmed agents went to the North Kingstown home of Katherine Russell’s parents on Monday. Russell is Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s widow and has been staying there.
Russell did not speak as she left her attorney’s office in Providence. The attorney, Amato DeLuca, said she is doing everything she can to assist with the investigation.