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Lawyers plan Marathon manhunt forum

A group of lawyers who say they think some of the actions by law enforcement authorities in the days after the Boston Marathon bombings were unconstitutional will hold a second open meeting in Watertown for any residents who want to talk about the events.

Members of the Massachusetts chapter of the National Lawyers Guild will host a forum Wednesday about the home searches that took place in the community on April 19. The event will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. at First Parish of Watertown, 35 Church St.

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The meeting is the last in a series that the guild has hosted in recent months, including one in Watertown last fall.

Top lawyers in the guild said that as authorities searched for alleged Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on April 19, there was an unprecedented show of force in Watertown, Cambridge, and nearby communities, and many houses and properties were searched without a warrant.

“With no suspicion of wrongdoing by any of the residents, and with no warrants, the government searched the private homes of many Watertown residents and ordered many innocent people from their homes,” said Urszula Masny-Latos, executive director of the guild, in a statement last week on the forum.

Benjamin Falkner, a member of the guild’s litigation committee, said police usually need to have a solid basis for searching a house or arresting someone.

“The widespread searches of many Watertown homes without any individualized suspicion have no constitutional precedent,” Falkner said in the statement. “Without such precedent, the question is whether the searches were lawful under our constitutions. We believe that the answer to that question is, no.”

‘The widespread searches of many Watertown homes . . . have no constitutional precedent.’

Benjamin Falkner, Lawyers Guild litigation committee 
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Watertown Police Chief Ed Deveau said he is proud of the actions police took on that dramatic day last spring.

“My officers defended Watertown without regard for their own personal safety and displayed courage and bravery as they stubbornly defended our community,” Deveau said. “They defended America’s freedom and right to free speech.”

Deveau also said that “99 percent” of the feedback he has received has been praise for the response by both Watertown officers and other local police agencies. He said he also has received “even more praise for the residents of Watertown, who stood tall and helped us through such a difficult day.”

Masny-Latos said that as time passes, she receives more inquiries from residents concerned over how the hunt for Tsarnaev was handled.

“People are starting to talk and I think that we all need that, to be able to talk about what happened, analyze it, and come up with some opinions,” she said. “Right now there is a little more concern that people are raising. We did not see this concern a few months ago.”

She said about 30 people attended the fall meeting in Watertown, and many voiced concerns.

“They were talking about problems they had with how the government handled the situation,” she said. “I was a little surprised because I thought most people would be supportive of what the government did, and they were not.”

Masny-Latos said it is too soon to tell whether the response by police warrants legal action.

“We want to wait until this last event and then we will analyze what we’ve heard and see if there’s anything for us to be involved in,” she said.

Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jaclyn.reiss@globe.com.
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