Federal prosecutors have asked for a court order that would prevent Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the accused Boston Marathon bomber, from seeing autopsy photos of people killed in the bombings, except for photos offered as exhibits at his trial.
Allowing him to view all the photos would “violate the victims’ rights to dignity and privacy and subject them to needless harm and suffering,” the prosecutors argued.
“Specifically, allowing photos of the mutilated bodies of the victims to be viewed by the man accused of mutilating them would needlessly revictimize the family members in the same way that innocent children who are photographed pornographically are revictimized whenever those photos are seen by others,” prosecutors said in a six-page court filing Monday.
The prosecutors acknowledge that Tsarnaev has the right to review photos introduced in his trial, but they asked that he be prevented from viewing any photos accessible to his defense lawyers that will not be presented as evidence.
“Here, as in other cases where a defendant has no need personally to review sensitive or classified evidence that will not be used against him, the court has the power to fashion an appropriate order that will safeguard the defendant’s rights without needlessly risking harm to others,” the prosecutors argued.
Defense attorneys did not immediately respond to the request.
Tsarnaev, now 20, faces a 30-count indictment alleging that he set off the April 15, 2013, bombs that killed three people and injured more than 260. Many of the injured lost limbs in the attacks and were scarred by shrapnel.
He and his brother, Tamerlan, were also accused of the fatal shooting of an MIT police officer before they attempted to flee the area. Tamerlan, 26, was killed April 19 in a confrontation with police in Watertown.
Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty, though a jury will decide on a sentence if Tsarnaev is convicted.
US District Court Judge George A. O’Toole Jr. set a November trial date. The judge also set an April 16 hearing to hear several outstanding court requests, including a request by Tsarnaev’s lawyers to loosen some of the prison restrictions placed on him at the federal prison at Fort Devens in Ayer.
In the court filing Monday, prosecutors said that in February they provided defense lawyers with copies of autopsy reports for Krystle Marie Campbell,29; Lingzi Lu, 23; and Martin Richard, 8, the three people killed in the bombings, as well as for Sean Collier, 27, the MIT police officer shot to death April 18. The prosecutors did not include the autopsy photos, however, citing their “sensitive nature,” and they offered to make the photos available for review in the US attorney’s office.
The defense lawyers refused to accept any limitations on Tsarnaev’s rights to view the autopsy photos, however, and demanded copies of all of them.
Prosecutors asked O’Toole to grant an order preventing Tsarnaev from seeing all the photos under the federal Crime Victims’ Rights Act, which, according to prosecutors, grants a crime victim “the right to be treated with fairness and with respect for the victim’s dignity and privacy.”