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US judge refuses Tsarnaev request for evidence

Defense sought evidence from ‘11 triple slayings

By Globe Staff 

A federal judge rejected a request by lawyers for accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to force prosecutors to turn over information about a Waltham triple-murder case, saying the requested information is not related to Tsarnaev’s defense.

US District Court Judge George A. O’Toole Jr. also refused to hold a hearing to investigate law enforcement leaks to the news media, as requested by the defense, saying such a hearing “is unlikely to be either productive or effective.”

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“It is instead more likely to elicit further comment and speculation and distract from the proceedings,” O’Toole wrote in an order issued Tuesday.

Tsarnaev, now 21, is scheduled to go to trial in January for the April 15, 2013, bombings that killed three people and injured more than 260 near the Marathon’s finish line.

He and his older brother Tamerlan are also accused of killing an MIT police officer. Tamerlan was killed during a confrontation with police in Watertown.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev faces the possibility of the death penalty if convicted.

In advance of Tsarnaev’s trial, defense lawyers have sought more information from the government to help present their case, such as copies of the government’s communications with Russian authorities about Tamerlan. O’Toole said the government has already provided what is necessary.

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The judge also said he would not order prosecutors to turn over more information about an investigation into a triple homicide in Waltham in 2011.

One of Tamerlan’s friends, Ibragim Todashev, allegedly confessed that he and Tamerlan were involved in the killings. Todashev was shot and killed by an FBI agent in May 2013 after he allegedly attacked the agent during questioning at his apartment in Florida.

O’Toole said Tuesday that prosecutors have already provided enough information about the core issue — that Tamerlan was allegedly involved in the killings.

The judge said the requested information, part of an ongoing state investigation into the murders, would not advance the theory that Tamerlan was a murderer who intimidated and influenced his younger brother.

“I conclude that the report is not material and helpful in the necessary sense,” the judge said.

Defense lawyers had filed the request for a hearing into leaks to the media after a recent magazine article cited information from anonymous law enforcement officials.

O’Toole said he was concerned about the magazine report after recently warning prosecutors not to disclose information, though he acknowledged that prosecutors had sent a letter to law enforcement agencies in July alerting them of the judge’s warning.

“It is essential that those who were previously or are currently involved in the case, or who otherwise have access to nonpublic information, understand and appreciate the concerns addressed in the government’s letter, particularly as the commencement of trial draws closer,” O’Toole said.

He ordered government prosecutors to tell law enforcement supervisors to warn their subordinates that they could be sanctioned if they disclose information about the case to the news media.


Milton J Valencia can be reached at mvalencia@ globe.com
Follow him on Twitter @miltonvalencia.