- Prosecutors ask to keep Dzhokhar Tsarnaev from viewing autopsy photos
- Letting the bomb suspect see them would cause "needless harm and suffering," they argue
- Defense lawyers call those restrictions unwarranted, and a judge agrees
Accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should be allowed to view autopsy photos of the attack's victims and meet with his sister without being watched by the FBI, a federal judge said Wednesday.
Prosecutors had asked U.S. District Judge George O'Toole to keep Tsarnaev "from personally reviewing autopsy photographs of victims" other than those the government plans to use at his trial, set for November. Letting him see the rest "would violate the victims' rights to dignity and privacy and subject them to needless harm and suffering," they wrote.
The photos are already covered by a protective order in the case. Also, the government's request didn't apply to Tsarnaev's lawyers, who have had access to the pictures. But defense attorneys refused to accept any restrictions, calling the request unprecedented and unwarranted, and O'Toole agreed.
Tsarnaev, now 20, is accused of planting the bombs at the finish line of the 2013 race along with his brother Tamerlan, who was killed during the manhunt that paralyzed Boston. The city marked the anniversary of the attacks on Tuesday, pausing to remember the three people who died and more than 200 who were wounded, many of whom lost limbs.
The trial is set for early November, with the government seeking the death penalty. Defense lawyers are expected to argue Tsarnaev was under the "domination and control" of his brother. Tsarnaev was not in court for Wednesday's proceedings.
O'Toole also said meetings between Tsarnaev and his sister shouldn't be subject to monitoring by investigators, though he held off on issuing a final order on the matter. Tsarnaev lawyer David Bruck argued that letting federal agents monitor their conversation would intrude on the defense.
"The decision to take the most casual remarks, an ironic comment, and provide it to the prosecution ... becomes ammunition on the death penalty," Bruck said. If the charges against Tsarnaev are true, he said, "This is about a family," and lawyers should be allowed to observe the relationship between the siblings without interference.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Nadine Pellegrini argued that defense lawyers were trying to combine a legal visit with a social one. O'Toole said he didn't think there was a security issue involved and he was inclined to grant the defense request, but didn't issue a formal ruling.