Dzhokhar Tsarnaev loses a lawyer for pending appeal in Boston Marathon bombing case

Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnev in a courtroom sketch from his sentencing in 2015.
Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnev in a courtroom sketch from his sentencing in 2015. Jane Flavell Collins/Reuters

An appellate attorney is no longer working to save confessed Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev from the death chamber, legal filings show.

Anthony Paul O’Rourke, a member of Tsarnaev’s taxpayer-funded legal team, on Tuesday filed a motion to withdraw from the case in the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, where Tsarnaev is challenging his conviction and death sentence for his role in the 2013 terror bombing.

O’Rourke wrote that he had signed on as appellate counsel while working in the Federal Defenders office in New York. He’s since left that office for a teaching job.

“I am currently employed full time as both a professor of law and the director of an advocacy institute at the University at Buffalo School of Law,” O’Rourke wrote. “This position carries extensive teaching, research, and administrative obligations that leave me unable to continue serving as counsel in this case.”


Given his change in employment, O’Rourke wrote, “I respectfully request leave to withdraw as counsel. Attorneys for the Federal Defenders of New York, with learned counsel, will continue to zealously represent Mr. Tsarnaev in this direct appeal.”

Tsarnaev, 26, was convicted in 2015 and sentenced to die for carrying out the April 15, 2013 bombings with his older brother, Tamerlan. The blasts near the finish line killed three people, including an 8-year-old boy, and wounded more than 260 others. The Tsarnaev brothers also killed an MIT police officer while they were on the run.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a confrontation with police in Watertown days after the fatal blasts. A Boston police officer died a year later from injuries he sustained in that shootout.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is currently being held at a federal supermax prison in Colorado. Oral arguments in his appeal are slated for December.


During his 2015 trial, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s lawyers admitted that he participated in the bombings but claimed he was under the sway of his domineering older brother.

Prosecutors, however, have maintained that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev “quietly adopted a radical Islamic ideology” while a student at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and was “reading and watching radical Islamic propaganda.”

Several lawyers remain listed as attorneys of record for Tsarnaev as he pursues his appeal.

Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.